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Full text of "The Swamps, a record of pioneer days in the Middle West"

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THE SWAMPS 



SIGEL ROUSH 



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Swamps, 



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THE SWAMPS 

A Record of Pioneer Days 
in the Middle West 



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By SIGEL ROUSH 



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Printed By 

Shenandoah Publishing House, Inc. 
str.vsburo. virginia 

1929 



Copyright 1929 
By Sigel Roush 



foreword 

These sketches are founded on fact 
and fiction. Mostly fact. All are 
potentially true. The characters are 
all real, though they are presented 
under assumed or altered names. 

The Rudolph family lived, moved 
and had its being in the Swamps. 
Sheridan Rudolph relates the earlier 
adventures herein recorded substan- 
tially as they were told to him. His 
later personal experiences and reactions 
to life are meant to be frank and 
sincere. 

The author makes no claim to liter- 
ary proficiency; this book is purely a 
work of love. 

SiGEL RousH 
Averill Park, X. Y. 
October, 1929. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

I Location and Physical Features 7 

II Jack Kling Finds My Father Dying 15 

III Jack Kling and Moccasin Mike 25 

IV Dink Cherry and My Father's Wild Ride 35 

V Catamounts 47 

VI Joel Smart, The Swamp's First Trapper 55 

VII A Cabin Close-Up and a Bear 69 

VIII Willis and The Wolf 83 

IX The First Crop and the Last Wolf 97 

X, Clarkson's Operation and Biddie's Eggs 111 

XI The Big Ditch 123 

XII McKim, The Bandit 135 

XIII The Hunts and the Crowmans 155 

XIV A Sunday's Program 169 

XV Pastimes in the Swamps 183 

XVI My First Fight 197 

XVII Coon Hunting 209 

XVIII "Give Me Liberty" 225 

XIX Getting Religion 239 

XX Willis Comes Home 253 

XXI Tireless Time and Tide 273 

XXII High School and Home 287 

XXIII The Fever 303 



CHAPTEK 1 
Location and Physical Features 

These incidents and adventures occurred in a section 
of the Middle West locally known as THE SWAMPS. 
At the time of which I write the Swamps was 
an oasis of backwardness that remained primitive and 
unreclaimed long after the country round about had 
taken on the semblance of civilization. The reason for 
this was not far to seek, for the nature of the Swamps 
— in area about a hundred square miles — was extremely 
wet and miry and in consequence held out but little 
inducement to the settler; for not only was the ground 
utterly unfitted, in its swampy condition, for growing 
crops, but in addition it was covered with a dense 
growth of timber that had to be cleared away before 
the land could even be properly drained. It was level 
throughout and contained no streams, and at the 
beginning of the last century it was a primeval forest — 
dense, dismal and comparatively unknown. 

The Swamps abounded in game and certain fur- 
bearing animals, and the gain from pelts had early 
attracted a few hardy trappers who lived, for the 
greater part of the year, within these gloomy precincts. 
As an adjunct to the wild meat upon which they mainly 
subsisted, these trappers, who soon became expert 
woodsmen, were in the habit of clearing away a small 
plot of ground about their rude cabins upon which they 
grew a meagre amount of vegetables and Indian corn. 



8 The Swamps 

These trappers lived a lonely life, seldom met their 
fellows and rarely came in contact with the outside 
world. They held no legal title to the land, nor did 
they concern themselves about it, for there was no one 
to dispute their claim. Yet there was an unwritten law 
among them that prevented one from encroaching upon 
the territory of another, and if there ever occurred any 
disputes or differences between them, it was settled by 
the law of the jungle and the outside world knew 
nothing about it. 

On every side of the Swamps the country was hilly, 
thus converting this tract of marshy forest into a 
natural amphitheatre. In these surrounding hills the 
pioneers from the East settled and cleared away their 
farms. Here they reared their families and wrested 
from the soil their slender subsistence. In the hills to 
the South of the Swamps my forebears, after trekking 
over the Alleghany Mountains, finally found a home. 
Here my father and mother were born and lived until 
they married, which, following the custom of those 
pioneer days, was at an absurdly early age. 

A fortnight after the simple nuptials my father 
chanced to meet one of the trappers from the Swamps 
who was returning from marketing his furs, and the 
two engaged in conversation. The trapper was old and 
weary of his life, and offered to sell his claim of about 
fifty acres to my father. The consideration was only 
a few dollars and my father bought it "sight unseen." 

The next day the trapper led my father to a one- 
room cabin about five miles into the Swamps. There 



Location and Physical Features 9 

was a small clearing around the cabin, a shallow well 
and a few hand implements of the soil. That was all. 

The next month my father and mother mounted on 
a single horse, took up their journey to their new 
home. Here my mother remained while my father 
returned to his ancestral rooftree in the hills from 
which place he brought away, on his second horseback 
trip, all his earthly belongings. 

In these unpromising surroundings they began 
housekeeping. Being the youngest but one of a family 
of six I have no personal knowledge of these strenuous 
years but many a night I have listened, while the logs 
blazed and crackled in the wide-mouthed fireplace of 
our then larger log home, to the thrilling tales told by 
my father and older brothers of these primitive times. 
Some of these tales I have heard many times, but I 
never grew tired of them. At the dramatic periods 
my heart would beat wildly and in imagination I fought 
with them, I wrestled with the wild beasts in close 
quarters, I could even feel the trickle of blood from 
wounds made by the wolfs cruel teeth as it oozed my 
strength away. And I had pointed out to me time 
without number the places where these thrilling 
adventures happened, and where my mind's eye would 
complete the scene, when with the actors all restored, 
the pioneer drama would be re-enacted in my excited 
brain with the verity of living reality. Other evidences 
of the truth of these tales I have had a-])lenty, not the 
least convincing of which were certain bodily scars that 
my father and older brothers received in these conflicts, 



10 The Swamps 

and which they carried with them to their graves ; scars 
not only inflicted by ferocious beasts, but scars left by 
ferocious men as well; honorable scars, the badges of 
heroism bestowed upon them in the fierce struggle they 
waged to gain and maintain the mastery over the savage 
conditions of these lawless days. 

In this miry, inhospitable jungle my parents 
started life together, a life that held nothing in prospect 
besides a bare living yielded but grudgingly from the 
sources at hand, and then only under tremendous 
pressure. I have tried to picture these early days in 
the Swamps — days when my father worked with axe 
and maul, and grubbing hoe and spade to keep the 
allegorical wolf from the door, while the real marauder 
was sometimes dispatched in a hand-to-hand encounter, 
or his depredations ended by a well-aimed bullet from 
"Long Tom," the ancient family rifle. This old fowling 
piece I remember very well. To lift it was no easy 
task for me even when I was quite "a chunk of a boy." 
But Long Tom was as important an implement of those 
days as the articles of husbandry, for though the few 
stray Indians who still roamed the Swamps after the 
cowing given to them by "Mad" Anthony Wayne, were 
more of a nuisance than a menace, still there was meat 
to be provided for the larder, and Long Tom was 
generally able to supply this need. 

This ancient weapon was taller than a man, and 
weighed as much as the elephant gun of modern times. 
It was, of course, muzzle-loading and took a homemade 
bullet about as large as a good-sized pea. This bullet 



Location and Physical Features 11 

was wrapped in greased "patching," a piece of muslin 
that had been dipped in melted tallow, after which it 
was inserted into the muzzle of the gun. Then wdth a 
long, slender, hickory ramrod it w^as rammed down 
upon the charge of pow^der that had been previously 
emptied from the powder horn into the muzzle of the 
gun. These ramrods, because of their small size and 
great length, would frequently break in ramming home 
the bullet. This was sometimes tragic, especially in 
face of danger, for it became necessary then to make a 
new one before the gun could again be loaded. And it 
was no small task to fashion and finish these ramrods, 
for they had to be made of a straight-grained piece of 
tough hickory clear of knots and capable of being 
rounded and scraped to exactly the size of the bore of 
the gun. Otherwise they would the more easily break. 

My father, like other pioneers of his time, was a 
good shot. Indeed, considering the primitive weapon 
he used, it seems to me in looking back across the 
years, some of his shots were little less than marvelous. 
This same primitive gun is still in the possession of the 
family, and only a few years ago I handled it, and 
the wonder of those shots grew greater as I compared 
it with the present day arms. And yet even in my time 
I remember my father, then past middle life, holding 
this heavy rifle without a rest and firing the bullet 
squarely into the middle of a beef's brain on butchering 
day. 

He was always ready to test his skill at shooting 
with us boys, all of whom became, from the very nature 



12 The Swamps 

of things, good shots. And up to the time his eyesight 
began to fail him in his seventies, he was usually 
victorious in these shooting matches. I remember with 
poignant emotions when he first failed to prove the 
victor. I had been away from home for awhile, and 
my return was celebrated one afternoon by a marks- 
manship test. My father proposed it, and though I 
owned a more modern rifle, he suggested we use Long 
Tom. I set up the target at fifty paces against the old 
elm tree in the barnyard; and Long Tom was taken 
down from the deer antler support above the door and 
cleaned. From the powder horn my father carefully 
poured a charge of powder down the long barrel. He 
next wrapped the ball in the patching and rammed it 
home. Then he primed the gun and drew back the 
hammer. I saw to my sorrow the old Pioneer was a 
bit unsteady, and I determined to shoot wild when my 
time came. He must have suspected my intentions, for 
when his shot failed to hit the bulFs eye he warned me 
about any fudging on my part. I was in a quandary 
as to what to do, for I knew I could beat his shot if I 
did my best. I looked at him for a moment and I 
realized if he suspected that I was letting him down 
easy he would feel hurt, for all his life he had played 
the game with wild nature and wilder men where no 
quarter was ever asked or given. I determined to do 
my best. 

When the score was closed I had beaten him over- 
whelmingly. I shall never forget the look of sadness 
and sorrow that filled his now dimming eyes as he 



LocATiox AXD Physical Features 13 

realized, perhaps, for the first time in all his life, that 
he was nearing the end of the book, that his days of 
triumph were numbered. 

In those early times we were never much given to 
sentiment or demonstrations of affection, and while he 
made a brave effort to accept the inevitable, he did it 
with awkward grace; for it was the first time in his 
whole life he was compelled to step down and take 
a back seat. He was no longer young, and the convic- 
tion bore down upon him heavily and with deadening 
effect. 

I saw him again several times at intervals of about 
a year, and each visit told a sorrowful tale of the rapidly 
failing old man. Then one day I was hurriedly called 
home. The gray-haired patriarch sat in his favorite 
arm chair, a chair fashioned by his own hands years 
before out of well-seasoned hickory withes. He was 
painfully weak, worn and emaciated. His eyes, always 
bright and penetrating, took on an unnatural brilliancy 
as I drew near. I sat close beside him and we talked 
and talked and talked — always of the past, of those 
savage days when the next meal was not always in 
sight; of ditching in March when we stood knee-deep 
in ice-cold mud and slush digging an outlet to some 
slough or morass which we hoped to add to our tillable 
acreage ; of that time when a desperate she-wolf in mid- 
winter kidnapped my baby brother; of the killing of 
McKim, the far- West bandit who pursued by a sheriff's 
posse had taken shelter in the swamps; of Moccasin 
Mike, the Indian, killed in a struggle over stolen pelts ; 



14 The Swamps 

of the time when I, as a little tot, wandered with our 
collie, Tip, up the Big Ditch, and became lost in the 
Big Woods; of the time I lay at death's door with the 
fever ; of Jack Kling, the old trapper, and how he once 
came upon my father dying in the woods from the 
wounds of a wolf; of the time when I ran away from 
home and refused to come back unless I was granted 
certain privileges that in my youthful egotism I deemed 
rightfully mine; of how my mother always pleaded for 
me when I was in for a proper drubbing, and of how at 
last she lay white and cold in her eternal dreamless 
sleep. 

And then when the embers burned low, and my 
father's voice became scarcely audible, I gently helped 
him to his big wooden bed, and he soon fell into a 
natural and peaceful sleep. Then I left him — left him, 
as it turned out, to his eternal sleep, for no morning 
for him ever dawned again on earth. 

That last talk with my father of those pioneer days 
brought back vividly the scenes of my childhood, and 
the earlier adventures recounted to me by my older 
brothers, and yet those still earlier by my pioneer father. 
I, myself, have reached the stage in the journey of life 
when I sit with my back mostly to the driver, and take 
more pleasure in the past than in the future, and as I 
recall these scenes I have formed the habit of setting 
them down. This accounts for the pages that follow. 



CHAPTEE II 
Jack Kling Finds My Father Dying 

When a child I often wondered what physical 
phenomena accounted for the Swamps. Then one day a 
Professor from an Eastern College came our way. He 
was a Professor of geology and he came to study the 
formation of the Swamps. He lodged and boarded with 
us. I was tremendously interested in him from the 
start. 

One day after strolling over the Swamps for some 
hours he asked me if I knew of any stones in the 
Swamps. I did and led him to them. They were two 
big boulders that lay close together in the centre of the 
cow pasture. Tip knew these stones, too, for when told 
to go fetch the cows he first ran for these stones and 
leaped upon one of them. From this elevation, for 
they were as tall as a man, he could see above the high 
grass and locate the cows. Then he would make a bee 
line for the cattle and bring them home. 

"Ah, ha," said the geologist half to himself when 
we had reached the two boulders, "I suspected as much." 
Then he sat down on one while I clambered to the top 
of the other and faced him. There in kindergarten 
terms he explained to me that at one time in the earth's 
history huge glaciers formed in the N'orth and slowly 
moved towards the South. These great masses of ice 
scooped away whole mountains that lay in their paths, 
and carried the debris along with them. Then the 



16 The Swamps 

earth warmed up again; the ice melted, and left these 
stones where they lay. Furthermore, in the opinion of 
this professor, the water from this melting ice had filled 
up a bowl in the hills and formed a lake here, a glacial 
lake. But once the ice had all melted and cut off the 
supply of water the lake gradually evaporated and left 
a marshy muck in the bottom. Here coarse herbage 
first grew, then marsh shrubbery and finally the dense 
forest. 

This explained many things about the Swamps; 
the water-levelness of the land ; the layer of clean gravel 
we always struck at a depth of about fifteen feet when 
digging a well, and other evidences that pointed to the 
lake origin of the Swamps. 

When my father bought his fifty-acre claim from 
the trapper in the Swamps and announced his intention 
of making it his home, his family did not take him 
seriously. But he and his young wife had talked it 
over, and when they began making preparations to 
move, there was consternation among their relatives, 
for they, one and all, regarded this procedure as little 
less than suicidal. Aside from the trappers no one of 
any standing had ever gone into the Swamps with the 
avowed intention of making it his home — of hewing 
away the tangled forest and transforming the marsh 
land into fields sufficiently dry to produce agricultural 
crops. It was inaccessible ; no roads save a miry bridle 
path led to my father's cabin. The isolation was com- 
plete ; it was dismal, desolate, dangerous. For a woman 
to live in the Swamps was unthinkable. 



Jack Klixg Finds My Father Dying 17 

But this healthy young couple — a strong, resolute 
girl, and a strapping, undaunted youth — were 
determined. They had known hard work and pioneer 
life in the hills. They -were full of hope and the will 
to conquer, and the day actually dawned when my 
father's prediction that the Swamps would finally 
become the granary of the entire section literally came 
true. But what a price he and his fellow pioneers paid 
to reclaim the Swamps! That first winter all but 
proved my parents' undoing. For three months not 
even a horse could make the trip to the hills so utterly 
impassable became the snow-filled and frost-spewing 
quagmires. Their provisions ran low — their flour, their 
groceries, their vegetables ; all save meat ; that they had 
in abundance. For bears and 'possums, coons and deer, 
besides the smaller game — rabbits and squirrels together 
with wild turkeys, wild ducks, wild geese and snipe, were 
plentiful; and deadfall, and boxtrap, snares and nets 
easily kept the larder supplied with meat. That, too, 
without the aid of Long Tom and the consequent waste 
of ammunition. Only when real danger threatened was 
Long Tom looked to. And this occurred on more than 
one occasion, for sometimes in midwinter, wolves — 
hungry timber wolves — would surround the cabin and 
hold my parents prisoners within. On such occasions 
Long Tom was brought into play. The cabin walls 
were chinked with moss and mud, and it was an easy 
matter to thrust the barrel of this ancient weapon 
through the soft material between the logs and train it 
upon the milling pack outside. The most random shot 



18 The Swamps 

could scarcely fail to bring down a victim, and when 
this occurred the whole pack would turn cannibal and 
fall upon their dying companion. In a bedlam of howls 
and snarls and fights they soon consumed Long Tom's 
victim when, as a rule, after this revolting animal orgy, 
they would slink away again into the deep forest, though 
sometimes Long Tom had to offer up a second sacrifice 
before the howling pack could be induced to leave and 
allow my parents to emerge from their log fort. Lynx, 
deer and bears often visited the clearing, but unless 
cornered they seldom showed fight. But these grey, 
slinking timber wolves in midwinter were feared more 
than any other animal denizen of the Swamps. And 
not without reason, for many a time did I look with 
a feeling akin to awe and veneration upon a deep and 
ugly scar in the calf of my father's right leg, and try 
to visualize the death struggle in which the all-but- 
mortal wound was inflicted. This was a story I never 
tired of, and one that thrilled me long after I bore the 
mantle of manhood. And more than once when we sat 
together at eventide on the rough hewn step in front 
of our then larger log house, with a grass smudge burn- 
ing nearby to keep mosquitoes at bay, I have persuaded 
my father to tell again the story of the fight with that 
deadly she-wolf that inflicted the wound, and but for the 
timely appearance of Jack Kling, the trapper, who later 
in life I came to know and who died a pensioner of 
my father, this story would have had a far different 
ending. 

It was a late spring and this wolf whelped early — 



Jack Klixg Fi^^ds My Father Dyinc; 11) 

so early that a succeeding cold spell had well-nigh frozen 
her young. In this condition my father came upon this 
half-perished cub, and partly through pity and partly 
through curiosity he picked it up and started with it 
to the cabin. No grown wolf was in sight, and my 
father concluded that the whelp, not being able to keep 
up with the pack, had been abandoned, according to 
animal ethics, to its fate. But in this he had missed 
his guess, for he had not proceeded far towards the 
edge of the clearing when crashing through the tangled 
woods with eyes ablaze and terrible, the mother wolf 
catapulted herself from somewhere in the vicinity and 
before my father knew what had happened she was upon 
him. He had no time to seize a club or bring into 
action his hunting knife before the wolf had felled him 
and was clawing and snapping at his face and throat 
with all the viciousness that her rage and frenzy could 
command. He fought back desperately, and my father, 
always a strong man, was a veritable Samson in his 
early manhood days. Several times he clenched with 
the brute and tried to obtain a strangle hold, but each 
time the beast would fight and bite and claw herself 
free. He did not call for help; he knew it would be 
useless and, besides, it was a habit of his, a habit born 
of the pioneer instinct, to fight his battles alone. He 
conserved his strength as best he could and determined 
to give a good account of himself. He fully sensed the 
seriousness of the battle and its uncertain termination. 
At this point in recounting the affair, he would often 
relate in detail the trend of his thoughts ; for he realized 



20 The Swamps 

the contest might fall in favor of the wolf — thoughts 
of his distressed and disconsolate young bride in the 
cabin, her anxiety when he failed to return, the search 
and the possibility of only finding his gnawed and 
bleaching bones — a search that might last all summer 
or the next, or the next; possibly not till some settler 
years afterwards had cleared away the forest would 
his almost forgotten bones be found. All this while the 
life-and-death struggle continued. 

Finally my father regained his feet, and while he 
was extricating his long-bladed knife from his belt 
which had become mixed up with his tangled and torn 
homespun clothes, the infuriated wolf fastened her iron 
jaws in the calf of his right leg. The grip was vice-like. 
Her fangs sank to the bone. For the moment my father 
was paralyzed with pain. Then he succeeded in 
disentangling his knife and made several vain attempts 
to reach behind and stab the brute that held on to his 
leg with bulldog tenacity. But with each twist of the 
body the wolf would mill around, and it became next 
to impossible to reach her. Frantically he stabbed at 
her head and neck but with little result. True, the 
blade reached home several times, but the wounds 
inflicted were not mortal and only sensed to madden 
the now frenzied beast the more. All the while the 
frothy jaws of the wolf were slowly tearing their way 
through the deep, fleshy muscles of the leg. As one by 
one the various blood vessels were severed bleeding 
became more and more extensive. The whole battle 
ground became crimson. This was a new danger, for 



Jack Kling Finds My Father Dying 21 

my father now became piogiiantly conscious that from 
loss of blood he was slowly growing weaker. With this 
conviction brought home to him he grew more desperate. 
He knew the decision must be made quickly, and in an 
almost superhuman burst of strength he turned and fell 
upon the beast. Thrust after thinist he rained upon the 
enraged brute each time sinking the blade to its hilt. 
With a final frenzied pull her jaws now locked in death, 
the wolf tore through the muscles of my father's leg and 
left a great gaping gash while from the severed arteries 
spurted forth a fountain of blood. My father reached 
down and made a feeble effort to stanch the flow and 
then he remembered no more. 

About this time Jack Kling, our nearest trapper 
neighbor, came upon the scene. He was just finishing 
the rounds of his traps, and though the sun was nearly 
down something led him in the direction of my father's 
clearing. "I never could quite figger it out," Jack 
would say scratching the fringe of hair that bordered 
his bald pate, "but I jist naturally A^eered out of my 
way until I come upon the place where George laid 
bleeding to death. I thought it was all over with your 
Dad ; yes, sir, it surely looked like he was done for. It 
'peared to me he had reached the short rows and was 
about finishing the field. I calculated his work here 
was about over. I felt all-fired queer when I seed him 
layin' there dead in a pool of blood ; and the wolf dead 
beside him, too. 

"I couldn't quite make it out though, for a wolf 
never attacks a man in the open, in bread daylight ; 



22 The Swamps 

leastwise I never seed it done. And then I begin to 
git my bearings, for more dead than alive the ornery 
little whelp comes a-whinin' around its dead mother. 
I soon put it out of its misery and then I lifted up 
George. He warn't cold a spec, ner stiff neither, and 
when I stood him up, fresh warm blood begin to spurt 
from his leg and trickle down to the ground. His face 
was smeared with blood and he v/as an awful sight. 
Then I seed from the quiver of his eyes he warn't 
dead for sure, and I laid him down again and tied a 
thong about his leg just above the gap in his calf. 
This kinder stopped the blood from runnin', and then 
I took off my coat and cut off some strips, and with 
these and some dry grass I tied up the gash. Then 
George opened his eyes a little and then I knowed he 
was still livin'. Then I shouldered him and started for 
the cabin. ISlo, your mother didn't take on at all, 
but just begin givin' orders and fixin' a pallet beside 
the fire. Then she helped me fix up the leg for the 
night, and wash the blood from his face and clothes and 
we got him settled all right, and then she made some 
penny-royal tea and we forced some down his throat. 
She tore up her bran new calico dress and we bandaged 
up his leg. She was just as cool as a cucumber and 
never moved an eyebrow when the blood spurted the 
worst. Then for the first time George opened his eyes 
and said ^'Lizbeth' : and then he sorter rolled his eyes 
to where I was standing and said, ^Jack.' And then he 
got kinder wild and your mother and me had to hold 
him at spells. He was still wrestlin' with that she 



Jack Klixq Finds My Father Dying 23 

devil. But towards morning he fell asleep, and when 
he woke up again he was in his right mind but awful 
weak. I brought venison, and your mother fed him on 
broth. After six weeks of nursing we pulled him 
through." And Jack might have added, "And I lived 
happy, near your family ever afterward," for Jack 
Kling's lot from that time on was always closely con- 
nected with that of our own family. 



CHAPTER III 
Jack Kling and Moccasin Mike 

The Rudolphs have always been pioneers. John Adam 
Rudolph, the common ancestor of the family in 
America, finding Central Europe dull and common- 
place decided to come to America. He landed in 
Philadelphia when Pennsylvania was on the frontier. 
He met and married his wife, Susannah, before leaving 
the seaboard. Then together they started West. They 
went as far as the Shenandoah Valley, and settled on 
land granted by the Crown. 

But the third generation found the Shenandoah 
Valley taking on the airs of civilization. John Adam 
died, as all of us must, and was duly mourned by his 
sixty grandchildren. Civilization always irked the 
Rudolphs. They now moved on. Some trekked to the 
!N'orth ; some to the West. My great-great-grandfather 
was in the company that packed what earthly belongings 
they needed and could carry on horseback, and headed 
their caravan across the Alleghanies. The party 
divided at the headwaters of the Ohio River. Some 
settled there; others kept following the path of the 
setting sun. My forebears cast their lot in with the 
latter group. 

At last they decided to make camp. The nearest 
white man was fifty miles away; and he a soldier inside 
a log fort. The party had dwindled, too ; one drowned 
in rafting across a swollen river, another died of a 



26 The Swamps 

fever. Five couples, two on my mother's side and three 
on my father's side, formed the little colony of settlers 
in the wilderness. That was all. 

They settled in the Hills to the south of the Swamps. 
They survived. They reared their families; and these 
in turn other families. I am of the sixth generation 
from that original pioneer whose honest bones lie in a 
little grave on the sunny hillsides of the Shenandoah 
Valley. And his gravestone is inscribed in the language 
of the country from whence he came. 

My immediate family marked another pioneer move, 
not violent but quite as dramatic as those other moves — 
across the sea and across the mountains. It required 
no small amount of courage to dare the hardships of the 
Swamps. Here again they were victorious; victorious 
in conquering the soil and in maintaining the Rudolph 
line. 

My father, George Rudolph, married Elizabeth 
Diedrick, both grandchildren of the five couples that 
crossed the mountains and settled in the wilderness. 
To them were born six children. Five survived. One 
died in infancy. Willis was the oldest, the first white 
child born in the Swamps. I have always envied Willis 
for he came in for a good share of the adventures of 
pioneer life. Then came Jonathan a year and a half 
later. Sister Luella marked the end of the first set 
of children. True, William, the little baby who failed 
to survive the perils of infancy, came along in the 
course of the next five years, but the gap was still 
further widened by seven additional years before I made 



Jack Klixg and Moccasin Mike 27 

my bow. And they called me Sheridan, Sheridan 
Rudolph. Two years later Clarkson arrived. Clarkson 
closed the record. 

Jonathan and Luella married young and Willis 
went away — still following the course of empire. This 
set of three children I scarcely remember. It always 
seemed to me Clarkson and I completed the children of 
the family; Clarkson and the trapper, Jack Kling, for 
he always seemed more like a boy than a grown man. 
Jack Kling! how I loved the old trapper in my child- 
hood days. Just how old he was when I grew to know 
him I scarcely know. I doubt very much if Jack, 
himself, had much idea of his age. Indeed he had 
but a hazy idea of his origin. I remember him as a 
jolly faced old Santa Claus with a merry twinkle in 
his eyes and a fringe of thin hair bordering his bald 
pate. He was short and stocky, and had muscles of 
iron. "When my parents came into the Swamps Jack 
was a mere youth ; my parents believed he was not much 
more than twenty. 

His cabin or lean-to was located not far from the 
edge of our clearing. Before the episode of the wolf 
had occurred during that first winter in the Swamps 
my father and Jack had met several times. Once he 
called at our cabin. On this occasion his embarrass- 
ment in the presence of my mother, then an attractive 
and buxom young girl, was overwhelming. But my 
mother, a born diplomat, soon won him over to a less 
painful attitude, and even induced him before he left 
to remove his bear-skin coat and allow her to mend 



28 The Swamps 

several serious breaks to which she called his attention. 

Jack was an entertaining story teller and always 
remained a faithful follower of our family's fortunes, 
and when I was just big enough to tote the water jug 
to the men working in the woods or field, I could some- 
times persuade him while resting to tell me a trapper 
story of the early days in the Swamps. What a quaint 
and whimsical vocabulary he had! What simple and 
sometimes striking figures of speech he would use ! 
Always allegories and parables drawn from the forests 
or the fields, from the flowers and fruits, from beasts 
and birds, from the various phases and forces of nature. 
N"ot infrequently they reminded me of Biblical parables, 
though Jack could neither read nor write. 

Jack was a successful trapper, and my father used 
to recall how the giant oaks around Jack's cabin in 
winter always displayed, stretched around their trunks 
and pinned to the soft bark by sharp hickory pegs, 
innumerable trophies of the season's catch — bear skins, 
wolf pelts, coon skins, wildcats, mink, beaver, deer and 
fox, not to mention squirrels and skunk. Like other 
trappers he wore skin clothing. These garments were 
sewed together with the sinews of deer or thongs cut 
from the skins of squirrels after they had been tanned 
and toughened by the wood-ash process. ^N'aturally 
they were ill-fitting and grotesque. This outfit topped 
with a coon skin cap with tails attached, if encountered 
in the woods today, would give sufficient excuse for the 
impression that some prehistoric animal was still 
roaming the forest at large. I well remember the time 



Jack Kling a:sd Moccasix Mike 29 

I resurrected one of these ancient outfits from the loft 
of Jack Kling's cabin where it had lain since trapper 
days, and in a fit of childish mischief I donned it and 
thus attired just as dusk was falling, passed skulking 
through the fringe of woods next to one of our 
superstitious neighbor's cabins. All the while I made 
peculiar noises until I was convinced the whole family 
had seen me and then I disappeared again into the 
woods Avhence I had emerged. This was sufficient, as 
I had hoped, to warrant these people in spreading a 
marvelous tale of some unknown monster which they 
saw at this particular time in the woods. And half the 
neighbors believed it, too, though it had gathered 
embellishment as it sped from mouth to mouth. Even 
my father became mildly interested in the story until I 
told him the entire circumstance. He tried to frown 
on the prank and I believe attempted a serious warning, 
but in the midst of it all he broke forth in such a hearty 
laugh that I fear his admonitions fell wide of the mark. 
Somehow the truth of that story finally leaked out and 
"That Rudolph boy" was threatened with dire 
consequences. But I continued to roam the woods as 
usual, and I never met with my promised punishment. 

Jack never used a gun, but with the hand axe and 
bowie knife he was a formidable foe. Especially with 
the latter. I looked upon him as a veritable magician 
with the bowie knife. He could throw it accurately 
at a great distance and stick it squarely in the bull's eye. 

Jack bore a conspicuous scar on the left side of his 
neck near a vital blood vessel. One day I asked him 



30 The Swamps 

its history. Jack reddened slightly at the question. 
He seemed to be just a trifle embarrassed. "Oh, just 
a little scrap with a catamount," he replied. But his 
answer didn't carry conviction. He was poor at 
dissembling. True, he went on to say that one day 
while passing through the woods a wild cat sprang 
from the branches of a tree and landed on his neck and 
in the scuffle that followed he got the wound. The 
story didn't convince me. But I never openly questioned 
his veracity, for I saw somehow the subject was one 
Jack did not care to discuss and I never mentioned the 
scar again. 

It was not until many years afterwards — after Jack 
had passed away — that my father gave me the real 
explanation of that mysterious scar. It was inflicted 
very shortly after my father came to the Swamps to 
live, and while Jack was still trapping. 

At that time there was a small Indian village on 
the river to the south about fifty miles away. They 
were not true Indians but mostly halfbreeds who lived 
by hunting, fishing and trapping; sometimes stealing. 
Occasionally some of them would come to the Swamps 
and spend a few weeks in hunting. Especially 
"Moccasin Mike," a rover and a thief. The trappers 
always suffered when Moccasin Mike was known to be 
in the Swamps. He had never been caught in the act, 
but it was significant that whenever Mike was around 
the traps would be systematically robbed. Jack Kling 
especially suffered. He had a good line of traps and 



Jack Klixg axd Moccasin Mike 31 

usually succeeded iu obtaining valuable pelts — mink, 
fox and lynx. 

JS^ow sycamore trees — what few were found in tlie 
Swamps — ^grew here to enormous size. And almost 
without exception they were hollow. And from the 
outside an opening usually led into the inside hollow. 
This opening began at the ground and, as a rule, 
extended up the trunk of the tree as high as a man's 
head; and as wide as a door. Game would often seek 
shelter in these hollow trees; especially birds — quail, 
woodcock and snipe. In their rounds for food foxes 
would invariably visit these hollow trees about the 
entrances of which one could usually discover feathers 
— the remnants of Reynard's feast. 

There was one sycamore which was an especial 
favorite with Jack, for here his traps usually bore fruit, 
that is, when Moccasin Mike was not in the Swamps. 
Then only the skinned carcass of the catch could be 
found in nearby bushes. Jack determined to "lay" 
for Mike. He was tired of supplying the greasy half- 
breed with valuable pelts. 

In order to increase his chances of catching Mike 
with the goods, he tied a fox that he had taken alive 
to a sprung trap and located it at the entrance to the 
hollow sycamore tree. Then after dark Jack took up 
his position inside the tree ; and waited all night ; fell 
asleep once but roused himself again and waited. 

He had about given up hope of catching the thief. 
But just as the pale streaks of dawn shot their shafts 
through the dense foliage Jack made out a skulking 



32 The Swamps 

figure creeping towards the sycamore. Stealthily it 
moved to the captured fox; stopped and picked up a 
stick to deal the animal a death blow. 

At that moment Jack leaped through the entrance 
that led to the hollow of the sycamore tree and landed 
squarely on Moccasin Mike's back. The force of the 
impact bore the Indian to the ground. Mike, himself, 
was agile and strong. In a moment both he and Jack 
were in a desperate struggle. Jack soon saw that Mike 
meant murder and knew the issue depended upon which 
one could bring his bowie knife into action first. But 
when one attempted to draw he was checkmated by the 
other. First Jack would have the advantage and then 
Mike. N^either succeeded at first in gaining his feet. 
Then together still clenched they arose from the ground. 
So far neither had obtained the use of his knife. 
On his feet Jack had the advantage. But Mike 
was agile and slippery. It was difficult to hold him 
securely enough to knock him out, for Jack never 
planned to finish him, only to give him a sound beating. 
Finally, in an unguarded moment Mike got hold of his 
knife. Before Jack was fully aware of this the half- 
breed had slashed Jack's neck. JSTo time now was to be 
lost ; Jack fully realized the seriousness of the situation. 
Jack was already handicapped, for the Avound was 
bleeding profusely. The struggle had now resolved 
itself into a fight to the death. 

The gleaming knife w^as once more poised ready to 
descend upon Jack's back. But Jack grabbed the 
Indian's forearm in time. He gave the arm a twist ; it 



Jack Kling and Moccasin Mike 33 

snapped under Jack's vise-like wrench, and the knife 
fell from the limp hand. Jack saw the arm was 
broken. Then with an almost superhuman effort he 
hurled the Indian from him. The halfbreed's head 
struck the butt of the sycamore tree with a dull thud. 
Mike did not move. For the present Jack saw he was 
safe. With his handkerchief tightly drawm about his 
neck, the bleeding from the wound stopped. Then 
Jack bent over the prostrate form of the Indian. Could 
it be true? Had he really killed him? Jack rolled 
the halfbreed over; he was as limp as a rag. He was 
finished. 

Jack w^as terror-stricken. In his tragic dilemma he 
sought my father's advice. He found him at the cabin 
and taking him aside told him of the tragedy. Without 
telling my mother w^here they were going each 
shouldered an axe and started for the Avoods, to the 
scene of the tragedy. Moccasin Mike was by this time 
stiffening in the rigors of death. 

When my father returned to the cabin my mother 
asked no questions. But she always suspected what 
had happened, though she was discreet. She told me 
afterwards that when she heard the vigorous sound of 
their axes and later saw a great volume of smoke arising 
from the treetops she had a very definite idea of what 
was taking place; an idea that was strengthened as 
time wore on and Moccasin Mike was never seen again 
in the Swamps — or elsewhere. 



CHAPTER IV 
Dink Cherry and My Father's Wild Ride 

The only other trapper beside Jack Kling that lived 
in our section of the Swamps was Dink Cherry. Dink, 
like Jack, lived alone, but much farther into the dense 
forest. Dink was as reserved as Jack was loquacious. 
But when Dink did talk it was lurid ; he was profoundly 
profane. 

I distinctly remember Dink Cherry, but from the 
nature of things when I reached boyhood he was 
necessarily well along in years. When Willis, my oldest 
brother, finally settled on a claim not far from my 
father's farm. Dink's profession of trapping had gone. 
My brother needed help; Dink worked for him. 

Like much of the human driftwood that found its 
way into the Swamps, Dink Cherry's origin was 
unknown; at least not until Dink was dying. He was 
known as the silent trapper, he of heroic stature and 
iron muscles; Dink, the inscrutable, the gloomy, the 
man of moods. 

At the time of my father's entry into the Swamps 
Dink was in his early twenties and for some never- 
explained reason he had, a few years before, deserted a 
prairie-schooner caravan from the East as it wound its 
way through the adjoining hills on its long and laborious 
trek to the gold fields of California. After gravitating 
to the Swamps he met Jack Kling and the two trapped 
together for one season. This was the year before my 



36 The Swamps 

parents came to the Swamps to live, and though Jack 
never knew any more about Dink's antecedents than 
the rest of us, they hit it off fairly well together and the 
season's catch proved profitable enough. In the spring 
they carried their furs to the Hills, where by helping 
drive some settler's cattle or hogs to the nearest market 
fifty miles away, they received in turn the privilege of 
storing their furs in one of the horse-drawn vehicles 
that always went along. With his share of the money 
received from the dealer at the fort settlement on the 
river, Dink purchased his own traps together with a 
few necessary household implements and utensils and 
the next year he trapped on his own account locating 
his lean-to a mile south of Jack's. Dink was never 
the delightful companion that was Jack Kling, still on 
rare occasions he would thaw out sufficiently to tell me 
in his own guarded and taciturn manner some story of 
his early days in the Swamps and the favorite story of 
all was my father's wild ride on the back of a stampeded 
buck. 

The ride occurred in winter and the Swamps' winters 
were not severe. But they were trying, nevertheless, for 
thaws would alternate with freezing weather in rapid 
succession which at length would transform certain 
spongy spots into spewing, bottomless bogs. Into these 
treacherous quagmires certain animals, especially deer, 
would sometimes become hopelessly mired when it 
became an easy matter to approach them and with an 
ordinary hand axe to send them to their doom. Even 
trappers familiar with this peculiarity of the local 



Dink Cherry and My Father's Wild Ride 37 

terrain would sometimes make a misstep and 
unwittingly stumble into these tenacious bogs and 
become seriously mired; for while there were no true 
quicksands, still with the repeated spewing up of this 
fibrous vegetable muck, it became a treacherous sub- 
stance in which animals would sometimes sink to their 
bodies, though seldom deeper. But in their endless 
struggle to extricate themselves they would so exhaust 
themselves that they finally became helpless. 

In February of that first winter my father discovered 
a big buck deer mired in nearby swale. The animal 
was half embedded in the soft muck which had been 
churned into a viscid, mucilaginous consistency for 
several yards about in the stag's vain effort to free 
himself. The deer had obviously been in this predica- 
ment for sometime and was now thoroughly exhausted. 
My father, with his hand axe and hunting knife, was 
skirting the edge of his clearing when he heard a 
peculiar noise — a whistling sound — that led him in the 
direction whence it came. It was the heavy breathing 
of the spent buck only a short distance from the open 
field, and my father soon saw the situation. Here was 
meat to be had for the taking, so my father thought, 
and without considering the danger to himself he 
rushed towards the weakened buck prepared to deal 
it a death blow with his axe. Xow, ordinarily, by 
stepping from tuft to tuft of the coarse swale grass that 
grows in these miry places one may avoid sinking into 
the oozy mud. In this manner the trained woodsmen 
pass over these treacherous places, and my father had 



38 The Swamps 

already been taught by Jack Kling how to avoid 
becoming enmeshed in them. In his excitement he 
rushed unheedingly towards the buck, but before he 
reached the side of the deer he plunged to his hips in 
the soft, gluey muck made doubly tenacious by the 
thrashing about of the buck. At once my father 
realized with grave misgivings his predicament, and the 
deer though well spent now made a supreme effort to 
turn himself around and face his new foe ; and partially 
succeeded, thus bringing his murderous antlers danger- 
ously near my father's head. It was a thrilling 
moment, for the buck still had strength enough left 
in the muscles of his neck to thrust his sharp, hardened 
horns into my father's body if in reach, and he was 
working himself nearer and nearer to where my father 
was temporarily mired. Even then by stretching forth 
his hands he could touch the longest prongs when the 
deer brought his head in my father's direction. Then 
an idea occurred to him — an idea born of his desperate 
straits. Instead of working himself away from the 
buck why not use all his strength to draw himself a little 
closer? This he did, and watching his chance, when 
the buck made another attempt to gore him, he grabbed 
with both hands the prongs of the deer and held on with 
all his might. The buck struggled with what appeared 
to be the last burst of his Avaning strength; but my 
father held on, all the time shifting as best he could his 
weight onto the horns. The deer with my father's 
added weight on the prongs was unable to raise his head. 
In this condition my father succeeded in drawing 



Dink Cherry and My Father's Wild Ride 39 

himself free of the mire and at last climbed astride the 
deer's neck, ^ow entirely in command of the situation, 
as he thought, he leisurely felt for his hunting knife 
intending to kill the deer and then by leaping from the 
carcass he hoped to land on safer soil. Partly to regain 
his breath and partly because he was convinced that the 
buck was now utterly at his mercy he did not make 
haste in the matter. 

But his confidence was not justified ; he had reckoned 
without his host, for no sooner had he fairly grasped 
the knife when with renewed and marvelous strength 
the huge buck made a maddening lunge, his feet 
apparently finding a solid bottom, and before my father 
had fully realized what had happened the buck had 
reached the edge of the bog, and straightway struck out 
through the woods. In the excitement my father lost 
his knife. He now found himself hanging on for dear 
life while the wildly excited beast went careening and 
crashing through the dense forest. To release his hold 
at this lightning speed would most likely have resulted 
in hurling him against some unyielding oak with the 
chances favoring a tragic termination. So like grim 
death he held on ; there was nothing else for him to do. 
The spreading antlers formed a protection from the 
tree boughs and brush and the wild ride continued. He 
hoped the deer would finally become exhausted and drop 
from sheer failure of strength. But the strength lasted 
unexpectedly long. It seemed hours, though as a matter 
of fact judging from the distance they traveled, it was 
only a few minutes before the speed of the wrought up 



40 The Swamps 

animal seemed to slacken. Then just as my father 
began to prepare to slide off, the deer would give another 
lunge forward and continue the mad pace for another 
stretch to be followed once more by a slowing-down 
period. But each time my father made ready to alight, 
the deer again lunged forward, and my father held on 
"when there was nothing in him except the will to hold 
on." 

The buck made in the direction of Dink Cherry's 
cabin. Dink heard the hullabaloo and knew something 
unusual was happening. With true trapper instinct 
he seized his hand axe — his hunting knife was always 
in his belt — and in the gathering twilight ran towards 
the tumult. 

"I couldn't make out what the blankety blank racket 
was all about," he would begin. Then shorn of 
profanity and put into ordinary English his story 
would run : "I saw the black bulk of the buck stumbling 
through the gathering gloom and was puzzled; I 
couldn't account for its queer actions; it seemed to be 
possessed of the devil; plumb gone looney. I heard a 
yell. It was George ! 

"Then for the first time I saw your Dad's crouching 
form on the buck's back. I didn't know whether the 
deer had been wounded and charged your Dad or what 
the dickens the row was all about. But I saw that 
George was somehow uncomfortably mixed up with the 
buck and I decided to interfere. N'ow I have had some 
experience with a wounded buck; look at this?" And 
Dink always rolled up his sleeve and showed the ugly 



Dink Cherry and My Father's Wild Ride 41 

scars on his arm. "They ain't always as dead as they 
seem; no, sir, a buck has as much life left in it after 
first killed as a cat. But to go back to George. I see 
the buck was pretty well done for, the way he stumbled 
along, but I wasn't taking no chances. I see George 
was in no immediate danger and I just watched my 
chance. It came at last, and just as the buck made 
his best fall with his head kinder crumpled up between 
his forelegs, I sprung at him from behind a tree and let 
him have it plumb on top of the skull. That finished 
him off properly; then your Dad rolled to the ground, 
but fought a little shy of that buck yet though the axe 
had sunk itself to the pole in the stag's brain. But the 
buck was done for, and your Dad was also a little 
shaken up after that wild ride. I looked at George 
and he looked at me for a moment, then together we 
took hold of a hind leg apiece and dragged the victim 
to my cabin. George told me what had happened as 
we skinned the big fellow and then your Dad shouldered 
all he could carry handily and started home. And 
that's all I know of the buck ride but," here Dink would 
swear a great oath, "I believe the other part, too, and 
I don't want you comin' around any more pesterin' me 
to tell you so again." This last remark was called 
forth to refute the intimation that we boys believed 
the whole story was a fairy tale from beginning to end 
and had no foundation in fact — a charge we always had 
to make to arouse Dink up to the point of talking. 

Dink Cherry always seemed by nature and in 
appearance more Indian than white. And unlike Jack 



42 The Swamps 

Kling took to farming when game vanished with evident 
distaste. It was only because of Dink's unusual liking 
for my brother that he worked for him at all. I have 
never seen such dog-like devotion and I have often 
wondered why. He was a much older man than Willis 
and in physique a giant beside him. Indeed, Willis was 
the runt of the Rudolph family ; for we other boys were 
all husky six-footers. Willis was always sensitive about 
his size, and if any one of the gang of loafers that were 
in the habit of congregating about Mr. Hallrand's store 
at the Rushville station wished to embarrass him, he had 
but to make some slighting remark about his size. 

One day in my brother's absence a particularly 
offensive member of this worthless gang greeted Dink 
Cherry upon his appearance at the store, with the 
question : "Well, Dink, how is your blankety blank runt 
boss?" That was as far as he got; the next moment he 
was sprawling on the floor. Dink with his sledge- 
hammer fist promptly knocked him senseless. That 
effectively put a stop to the slurring remarks about my 
brother's size — at least in Dink's presence. 

At the time my brother took over the claim on which 
Dink's cabin stood, the trapper had "taken up" with one 
of the Crowman women and had started a family. It 
was at the suggestion of Willis that Dink consented to 
go through a marriage ceremony with his "woman" and 
thus legitimize his children. This was a great conces- 
sion, for Dink, with others of his class, held that 
marriage was wholly senseless and a rite of the Dark 
Ages. 



DiXK Cherry and My Father's Wild Ride 43 

There came a time when Dink, though a tower of 
strength and a physical prodigy, lay dying. And unless 
my brother was attending him he seemed utterly 
miserable. Willis humored him as much as he could; 
for, though Dink's devotion to my brother was so 
marked at times that it was embarrassing, still Willis 
would have been unfeeling if he allowed this loyalty 
to go unrecognized. So during Dink's last illness 
Willis spent much of his days and most of his nights 
in Dink's cabin. 

One night towards the end Dink began : "Willis, I 
can't quite explain it but somehow I have always been 
drawn to you; ever since I rescued you as a baby from 
the she-wolf, I have loved you." As usual Dink's 
language was unique and had to be reduced to under- 
standable English ; only in Willis' presence it was not so 
lurid. Dink lately had learned to soften his profanity. 
"Well," he continued, "I never thought it was anybody's 
business where I come from ; I let 'em think what they 
pleased." Another pause. Then, "I know, as Jack 
Kling would say, *I have reached the short rows;' I'm 
about to shuffle off." Willis tried to comfort him, but 
Dink knew this was only to make him feel better, "^o 
good, Willis, I'm not afraid ; I've been in many a tight 
place before; it's all right, I didn't have nothin' to do 
with my comin' here; I reckon I ain't got nothin' to 
say about leavin.' I ain't got no religion like you have ; 
leastwise not the same kind." Here Willis again 
interrupted him wuth some sort of spiritual consolation. 
But Dink was in no mood for a deathbed repentance 



44 The Swamps 

scene. "JS'o, Willis," he continued, "I wasn't much of 
a holy roller all these years, and I hain't goin' to squeal 
now. I guess I lived accordin' to my own lights, and 
they ain't the same as yourn." Then after a pause; 
"But I'm not a— a what you call it?" "Infidel?" my 
brother ventured. "Yes, I guess that's it; leastwise 
I don't believe there ain't no Great Spirit. I've hearn 
it too often — in the deep woods, in the wind and in the 
sky. Yes, and in the flowers, the swale green and when 
the clouds put on their holy clothes just as the sun 
goes down." A new light shone in Dink's watery eyes. 
"Guess that same Great Spirit will take care of me 
now. Leastwise that's what my mother told me when 
I left her." A startled look came into Dink's face as 
he broke the silence of the years with this revelation 
about his origin. My brother, also, took on an 
expression of eagerness at Dink's unusual frankness. 
Dink noticed it and he continued : "Yes, Willis, I had 
a mother — an Indian mother. My father was a white 
man — a well-known frontiersman — a fighter of my 
mother's people." Dink's usually placid, immobile 
face registered the emotions that were surging through 
his deepest nature. My brother said : "Of course, Dink, 
I'm not prying into your past; don't tell me anything 
you don't want me to know; I've never asked you 
anything about your life, have I ?" "J^o, Willis," Dink 
replied, "but I want you to know ; I want you to see her 
picture." Dink noted my brother's expression of 
surprise. Then he continued; "Do you see that log in 
the side of the cabin; the one with a big knot in it? 



DiXK Cherry and My Father's "Wild Ride 45 

Well, take the axe by the fireplace and knock out the 
mud in the chink just under it." Willis did as directed. 
The brats and the woman in the next room stirred. 
Dink lifted a warning hand. In a moment all was 
quiet again. "Xow take out that package." Willis 
removed the loose moss and drew forth from between 
the logs a little black case. He brought it to Dink, and 
Dink opened it. It contained a faded daguerreotype 
picture that could only be seen when held in certain 
angles to the light. "That's my mother," Dink 
explained. It revealed a comely Indian woman, young 
and in native garb. Then handing the case to Willis 
Dink said : "Take it and keep it for me. If Dink, 
Junior, ever amounts to anything, give it to him and 
tell him its history." 

My brother promised. Then Dink reached once 
more for the picture. He opened the case and held 
it a long time before his face. At length his arms 
dropped from exhaustion to his side, and Dink fell 
asleep. Willis watched till daylight. Then slipping 
the picture into his pocket he roused the woman and 
left. 

At noon young Dink came running across the field 
to my brother's house. "Mom can't waken Dad," he 
cried in terror, ^or could Willis. 



CHAPTEK V 

Catamounts 

I, MYSELF, never saw a catamount in the Swamps. I 
believe they had all been exterminated before I was 
born. True, we used to have catamount scares, but I 
doubt very much if these animals that certain denizens 
of the Swamps vowed they had seen during my time, 
were really catamounts at all. They may have been 
lynx, coons, or even a domestic feline gone wild, but my 
father felt quite certain that the Swamps harbored no 
catamounts since trapper days. 

Jack Kling believes he, himself, killed the last 
catamount in the Swamps. Jack tanned the pelt of 
this particular catamount and kept it. I have seen it 
many times ; it was used as a throw-over or cushion for 
Jack's chimney-corner chair. It must have been a 
big animal and ferocious. Jack tanned the pelt with 
the head attached, and what a vicious looking head it 
was! I was half afraid of those gleaming teeth even 
on the pelt, half afraid to sit down in the chair lest 
the head that hung over the back might suddenly take 
on life, leap upon me and fasten those saber-like teeth 
in my throat. 

Jack tells a thrilling story concerning the capture 
and killing of this master-minded king of the 
catamounts. It was early in Jack's trapping experience 
in the Swamps. Jack had trapped a female cat near 
the sycamore tree that stood at the edge of the swale; 



48 The Swamps 

the swale upon which our clearing bordered. It was 
the same swale that was afterwards drained by the 
Big Ditch. In this swale lived a colony of beavers. 
There were only a few beavers in the Swamps and 
beaver pelts were valuable. Jack got several nice pelts 
from this colony. He usually skinned the beaver then 
and there, and threw the carcass back into the bushes. 

One day after a light snowfall Jack noticed 
catamount tracks about the bushes. He followed them 
to the beaver carcasses. The cats had been dining on 
beaver meat. "I hate a catamount," Jack would begin, 
"and I vowed I'd git rid of the critters by fair means 
or foul. I looked over the ground, and decided to try 
trapping. Then I took all but one carcass away. I 
located my trap by the side of this carcass. I raked 
some dry leaves over the trap. The next morning I 
had a cat; a whopper — a big she-cat; the biggest she 
I ever seed. And ugly ! She lunged at me like a streak 
of greased lightnin'. I didn't go very near her. I 
was afraid of the critter, although I had my hand axe 
in my belt. I never seed such flaming eyes; they 
looked like coals of burning fire. How she spit and 
yowled at me! I feared she'd break the chain and 
maybe git away. And I wanted that pelt powerful 
bad. I was puzzled, up a tree; how to git her where 
I could give her a knock-out blow without running any 
risk to myself. 

"How did I git her? I had a deer-hide thong with 
me about ten' feet long ; I find it handy at times, especially 
if you want to carry or drag a deer or bear carcass home 



Catamounts 49 

with you. I made a loop at one end of this lariat. 
Then I threw it at her. She snarled and lunged at the 
rawhide rope. It missed. I tried again. Another 
miss. Then I changed my position. This time it 
swung around her neck. I pulled; the trap chain held, 
and it was soon over. That was a fine pelt. 

"But I guessed she had a mate. I was right. That 
snow melted and another light snow fell. A few nights 
later I heard the howl of a catamount near the swale. 
I hadn't heard a catamount since the first year I came 
into the Swamps, the winter Dink Cherry and me went 
into cahoots in the trapping game. We caught six that 
year ; all, we thought, there was in the Swamps. Least- 
wise we never seed any more; nor heard 'em. I hate 
the howl of a catamount like pizen; it gits on my 
nerves. Now this infernal yowling begin again. I 
went to the swale the next morning. There were tracks 
all about where I had taken the she. I set a trap there 
again. [N'othing in it. Tracks all about the trap but 
no cat. I baited the trap with fresh quail and a piece 
of venison. But that cat couldn't be fooled. It was a 
wise cat. I gave up trying to trap the brute. 

"And the cat got bolder and bolder all the time. 
It would come to the edge of the woods now just back 
of my shack. And raise the dickens all night. I never 
heard such wicked yells. I couldn't sleep; they made 
me feel sorter creepy, them fiendish yells. Yowl, snarl, 
yowl all night! 

"JN'ight after night he would come to the edge of the 
woods and let out them unearthly screeches. Sometimes 



50 The Swamps 

it 'peared to me he was right under my winder ; always 
yelling at my cabin. I had the pelt of the she-cat 
stretched on the big oak tree in front of the cabin. I 
thought mebbe it smelt this skin, in all probability the 
skin of its mate, ^ext day I pulled the pelt down and 
pegged it to the inside of my cabin — up near the roof 
in the loft. That night the racket was worse than 
ever, and the cat come closter to the cabin. The brute 
was getting on my nerves bad. I couldn't sleep. Even 
before it begin its cussed yapping I couldn't sleep — just 
layin' there waitin'. About midnight it always com- 
menced. 

"Well, after this had gone on for several weeks I 
begin to get all-fired desperit. I didn't know what to 
do. Several times I got up and walked towards the 
swale hollerin ! The critter would stop for awhile, but 
as soon as I got back into my bunk it would commence 
again. 

"That beast was possessed. 'Peared to know I had 
got its mate, and was set on making me pay — pay in 
misery till I went luny. Leastwise it 'peared to me that 
was his game. 

"He'd come closter and closter every night. One 
night he come right up to the cabin and yowled like a 
fiend. Them yells was sure hellish. He was right at 
my door; I could see him prowlin' under the trees. I 
was afraid to go out for he was an ugly looking brute. 

"Strange, but I never owned a gun ; I always felt 
safer with a knife — knife and hand axe. But now I 
wished for Long Tom. At least I could have scared 



Catamounts 51 

him away. I beat on the door from the inside. It 
only made him snarl more savage. I was getting 
on reliable; I was at the end of my string. String? 
That give me an idee; why not lasso him as I did his 
mate? But how? That night I lay awake tryin' to 
figger out a plan. If I could only get a lariat around 
his neck and choke the life outter him; choke that 
infernal yowl outter the brute forever. 

"Morning come and the cat slunk away into the 
depth of the forest. He was gettin' bolder every night. 
He jumped onto the roof from the big white oak once 
and clawed at the clapboards just over the spot where 
I pinned up the pelt. He pulled out one board, too, in 
his attempts to break through. That was gettin' too 
near home. Something had to be done. 

"For the next several days I worked on a lariat. I 
cut two or three tanned hides into stout strips and tied 
them together. I knowed pretty well now the critter's 
beat ; around by the stick-and-mud chimney, and then 
back to the big white oak. I made a wide noose and 
laid it next to the chimney. I passed the other end 
through a chink in the wall. The cat always stopped 
beside the chimney, and set up a howl. I had put 
a trap here every night for a week and carefully covered 
it up. That cat was too smart to be trapped. I 
greased the trap with bear's grease and skunk oil, but 
I couldn't fool him. He 'peared to know jist where 
the jaws of that trap was. I could see his tracks within 
two inches of the trigger, but he never stepped on it. 

"Well, I placed the noose in position before dark 



52 The Swamps 

and scratched a few dead leaves careless like over it. 
I had the end that come through the chink in the wall 
tied to my bunk post. My bunk was on that side next 
to the fireplace. I couldn't see very plain but from 
practice I could tell pretty well from his screeches when 
the critter reached the side of the chimney. 

"The cat didn't come up that first night till nearly 
two o'clock. As soon as he reached the cabin he 
started in with his dismal yowls. Then when he come 
around to the chimney he stopped sudden like, and 
begin shiffin'. I could hear him sneakin' about near the 
chimney growlin' once in awhile and still keepin' up 
his sniffin'. Did that imp of satan smell the lariat? 
Well, howsomever that was, he left the cabin without 
nary another yowl. I was all-fired puzzled. I thought 
it all over, and couldn't make head or tail of it. What 
was there about a rawhide lariat to make a catamount 
suspicious? Then I remembered the noose end of the 
lariat was the same I used to lasso the mate. 

"Could the big cat have smelled this? Howsomever, 
I decided to put a new noose on and lay the lariat again. 
I burned the end I had used before. 

"The next night I had hardly turned in before the 
beast let out a savage yowl right beside the chimney. 
It was a new moon and clear. I could see the dark 
form of the catamount settin' on his haunches. HDe 
was yelling like the very old Nick. I tried to see if he 
was settin' inside the loop of the lariat. It 'peared to 
me he was in about the center of it. And lettin' out 
them cussed yells; yells that made your blood run cold. 



Catamounts 63 

My heart seemed to stand still. I felt for the end of 
the lariat. I was shakin' like a leaf. The cat let out 
one shriek after another; they was blood curdlin'. I 
seemed to be paralyzed with a mighty queer feelin'. 
By heck, I think that big cat was part devil. On the 
level I was afraid of him. 

"Then I pulled myself together, 'Shucks! was I 
turnin' yaller?' I brought the thong one hitch about 
my right hand. With the other I grasped my clenched 
fist and then — 

"I pulled with such force I tumbled out of my bunk 
and landed in the middle of the puncheon floor. For 
a second all was still. Then the thong began to move ; 
trembled and then drew taut. I had hooked the big 
big cat. 

"For the next few minutes I never heard such hellish 
shrieks. My blood froze and my flesh creeped. I 
couldn't move, I was paralyzed and with the cat in my 
power. I had the cat at the other end of the rope. 

"Then — what was that? Gnawin'? The lariat 
vibrated and the truth burst upon me ; that infernal cat 
was gnawin' the lariat in two. Gad ! was I to lose 
my prey after all? What could I do? Then I pulled 
on the rope with all my might. It gave, and I took up 
the slack around the post of my bunk. x\t last I heard 
the big beast struggling against the cabin wall. In this 
position I tied the thong tight to the post. With my 
hand axe I went out of the door and around to the side 
of the chimney. There was the cat drawn up close 
against the cabin wall with the thong about his body 



54 The Swamps 

just in front of the hind legs. Gad ! how his eyes 
blazed! And how he shrieked when he seed me! 
Wicked? I never seed such a wicked-looking brute. I 
was afraid of him. I wasn't sure that he wouldn't 
break his leash and spring at me. I certainly had no 
time to lose ; he was straining on the thong with all 
his brute strength. 

"I rushed at him and struck out with the axe at his 
blazing eyes. I missed and his knife-like claws caught 
the back of my hand and laid it open to the bone. I 
struck again. The blood from my hand made the 
handle of the axe slippery and it partly turned in my 
grasp, but struck the brute a glancing blow. It stunned 
him and I lost no time in sending home the final blow. 
The big cat dropped limp and hung like a pelt to the 
lariat. I went inside and lighted the fire. I was as 
limp as a rag and cold. My hand begin to pain me 
and I washed it and tied it up. It was now broad 
daylight. After resting a bit I went out and unfastened 
the big catamount from the noose. It was the last 
catamount I ever seed in the Swamps, and the biggest 
I ever seed anywhere.'' 



CHAPTER VI 
Joel Smart, The Swamps' First Trapper 

Joel Smart, so far as any one knew, was the first 
trapper to penetrate the dismal confines of the Swamps. 
Joel always stoutly maintained that he was in total 
ignorance of his origin. He was equally ignorant of 
the source of his name. Joel claimed that when 
memory dawned he was living with Indians — a claim 
that finds some support in the fact that he could speak 
the local Indian jargon as well as he could speak 
English. He was also an expert bowman, and with 
the bow and arrow he claimed he had killed many a 
deer. Joel also remembered, so he declared, that when 
a young boy he lived for awhile with a white trapper 
in the Hills that border the river. This trapper used 
to leave him alone in the cabin with scarcely any food 
for days at a time. During these half-starved periods 
he had to forage for himself; to hunt small game — 
rabbits, squirrels and birds — upon which, together with 
certain succulent roots, he mainly subsisted. 

Then came a time when the trapper with whom he 
lived went away and never returned. At this time Joel 
calculated he was about thirteen years old, though as 
to this he had no means of accurately telling. Joel 
was now left to shift for himself. He turned to 
trapping and continued to occupy the cabin in which 
he and the trapper had lived for three or four years 
longer. But at length, because of the gro^ving scarcity 



56 The Swamps 

of game, he packed up and started for the Swamps. 
Here he found fur-bearing animals plentiful. Once 
each year he carried his catch to the Hills. 

Then Jack Kling and Dink Cherry came to the 
Swamps, tried their fortunes at trapping and made 
good. Jack declares when he came to the Swamps Joel 
was living in a tepee in the most primitive manner. 
In my father's time, however, the skin-covered poles 
had been replaced by a small log cabin in which Joel 
lived until his death. 

Old Joel, or old Uncle Joel, as he was then generally 
called, lived to a great age. As I remember him, when 
he was very old and I was very young, he was a long, 
lanky, wizened old man. I was always half afraid of 
him; he had such an uncanny eye as sharp as an 
eagle's, that peered out from shaggy eyebrows beetling 
above a weather-beaten face. And whenever I saw him 
skulking through the woods that extended almost to our 
front door, I always ran into the house or wherever 
my mother chanced to be. Uncle Joel took to the 
rifle readily and remained a good shot until the day of 
his death. His hawk-like eyes never seemed to lose 
their cunning ; his nerves were always as steady as steel. 

Old uncle Joel had a pet deer. I saw it one day 
at our back gate. It was the only deer I ever saw in 
the Swamps; for deer, with most of the other larger 
animals, were either destroyed or driven away before 
I was born. Uncle Joel's pet deer wore a little tinkling 
bell attached to a collar around its neck. Everybody 
in the Swamps knew this pet deer, and it roamed the 



Joel Smart, The Swamps' First Trapper 57 

fields and woods unmolested. Even the dogs seemed to 
understand that it was rather a domestic than a wild 
animal. The deer was interesting to the community, 
especially to the younger children, because it was the 
sole survivor of the deer family in the Swamps, a family 
that supplied to the early settlers a goodly portion of 
their meat. 

I was only a little tot when on this particular 
morning I discovered this ferocious animal — for such 
it appeared to me — standing at our back gate ; and I 
ran as fast as my legs would carry me to my mother 
and pointed to the deer. She knew it was Uncle Joel's 
pet, and explained to me that it was wholly harmless. 
She told me it was probably looking for a tidbit to eat. 
She then went into the garden and pulled off a few 
turnip tops together with a few loose leaves of cabbage 
and carried them to the gate. At first I hung back, but 
encouraged by the boldness of my mother, who now fed 
the deer through the bars of the gate, I finally sidled 
up to her. Here I stood my ground though fearful all 
the time that this savage animal, into which my excited 
imagination had transformed the little pet, might lunge 
through the gate and devour me. But gradually I grew 
bolder and at last was persuaded by my mother to take 
a leaf of cabbage myself and feed it to the deer. This 
I finally did but not without tremendous trepidation. 
I drew back in terror when the deer's rasping tongue 
swept the cabbage from my hand. After his choice 
breakfast, the pet, to the merry tinkling of his tiny 



58 The Swamps 

bell, went bounding over the rail fence into the woods 
and was soon lost to view. 

Uncle Joel always declared that wild hogs were 
plentiful in the Swamps when he first came there to 
live. My father never saw them, neither did Jack 
Kling or Dink Cherry. But then they came several 
years after this veteran trapper had drifted to the 
Swamps. 

^'Didn't I get this twisted ankle from a fight with 
a wild boar?" Uncle Joel would offer as proof of his 
contention. That he had a defective ankle joint was 
obvious to all, a defect that caused a decided limp in his 
walk. As further proof of his assertion the old trapper 
would pull his coon coat aside and display his much- 
prized amulet. "What do you call these?" he would 
ask; "Ain't them boar's tusks? And didn't I get them 
from boars I killed right here in the Swamps?" The 
necklace consisted of a dozen or more white tusks strung 
Indian fashion on a string and worn around his neck. 

"And this one," pointing to a particularly long and 
sharp tusk, "is the one that broke my ankle." Here 
usually followed a psychological pause. Some one 
always asked Uncle Joel to tell about the fight. 

"Well, sir," Uncle Joel would begin, taking a fresh 
chew of native-grown tobacco — "long green," we used to 
call it, "that was a pretty close call; mighty close. I 
had no settled place to live in the Swamps at that time, 
jist roved about; built my fires from flint or rubbin' 
two sticks together, and sleepin' where it come handy. 
N'ot a livin' soul in all the Swamps at that time ; had 



Joel Smart, The Swamps' First Trapper 59 

everything my own way. Blacksnakes, too ; plenty of 
them, but I never feared snakes. 'Specially there was a 
lot of these big black fellows at the Xorth edge of the 
Swamps; the side furtherest away from here. There 
was a little creek, I called it Eock Creek 'cause there 
was plenty of rocks there, that run up near this side 
of the Swamps. Xext the creek them black snakes was 
as thick as hops. 

"Well, I was rovin' up this-a-way late in the fall 
one day when I heard a powerful gruntin' and squealin'. 
I didn't know what it was. So I kinder made my way 
careful like in the direction of the sound. I come to a 
openin' in the bushes and peeped through. Fightin' 
cats ! There was a mess of big razor back hogs as wild 
and as savage as a pack of wolves. There was a big 
sycamore tree blowed over and they was fightin' like 
mad around the turned-up roots; squealin' and gruntin' 
and foamin' at the mouth like hyenas. They'd plunge 
in among the loosened roots of the sycamore tree 
grabbin' and scramblin' after something till they could 
hardly be seen ; plum dug in under the roots and heaved- 
up earth. Then one would back out and all would rush 
for him; him that had been among the roots. It was 
an onearthly scrimmage. 

"At last, I could see that every time that one of 
them boars went foraging among the roots he would 
come out with something in his mouth ; that's what they 
all was fightin' about; somethin' they all wanted. 
'What the deuce,' says I 'is that thing they go after?' 



60 The Swamps 

Maybe some choice kind of mushrooms, or acorns, or 
tender roots, I thought. 

"Well, seein' they was all busy I crept a little 
closter; and I watched. They was hogs all right, but 
as thin as a razor, and as tall as a calf. What's that? 
Well, I'm not sayin' where they come from. Maybe 
they was just common hogs from some Hill settlers gone 
wild. Sure, they could live on mast — acorns and nuts, 
besides soft roots and grass. I'm not sayin' they 
couldn't; course they could. But what I'm sayin' now 
is they was wild ; wilder or uglier brutes I never seed, 
as wild as old ^ick himself. And fightin' like all 
creation over something they was eatin' and that they 
got from among the roots of that wind-blown sycamore 
tree. 'What the dickens', says I to myself, 'are they all 
so dadgasted daffy about?' 

"Well, goldarned if I could make out what them 
wild hogs was after in the mass of roots of that over- 
turned tree. I crept a little closter behind a clump 
of hazel nut bushes. Then I crawled along the far 
side of an old, rotten log. I peeped over. Holy cats ! 
Blacksnakes ! big ones, too. Big, squirmin' black- 
snakes; dozens of 'em gone to their den for the winter, 
a den hollowed out of the ground by the overturned 
tree; stupid like but warmed up a bit by the mild fall 
weather. 

"And the big lean wild boars was makin' sausage 
meat of them. That's right. Hardly had a big tusker 
backed out from under the roots with his mouth full 
of snakes than there was a rush for him, and quicker'n 



Joel S:.rART, The Swamps' Fikst Tkapper 61 



jou could say scat, the wigglin' snakes was torn into a 
hundred pieces. Down them snakes went, and the boars 
grunted for more. 

"Do hogs eat snakes? Sartinly. Tame hogs same 
as wild hogs. Turn hogs into a snaky lot and they'll 
clean 'em up. Sure, every one of 'em. Rattlers, pizen 
rattlers, too. There used to be a rattler's den down 
by the river — 

"Sartinly; I'm comin' to that, to them wild hogs. 
What next ? Well, I seed the cause of the shindig. I 
was satisfied and was just backin' away the way I come 
alongside the log when I heard a gruntin' and a rustlin' 
in the bushes not ten feet behind me. I crouched down 
and turned my head in the direction of the disturbance. 
Jimminy crickets ! There stood a wickid-lookin' boar 
with his head pushed out from the bushes. Teeth 
gleamin' and bristles raised up along his thin back. He 
was glarin' at me and champin' his jaws. Frothin' at 
the mouth too. And them tusks ! They was as big as 
cow's horns; leastwise, they looked so to me. He 
warn't ten feet away from me ; two jumps and he could 
be on top of me. 

"I did a powerful lot of thinkin' in them few seconds 
he stood glarin' at me. I had my axe and knife — I 
didn't carry a rifle them days; I didn't have any — only 
my Indian bow and a stock of arrows. And they was 
at my tepee; moved often at that time; followed the 
game trails. 

"I seed that big boar wasn't goin' to stand there 
long, and I reached for my axe. When I moved he 



62 The Swamps 

grunted and come a little closter. I slowly turned on 
my back; started to get up. That was enough; the 
boar lunged half the distance between us in one leap. 
Another jump and the beast would be at me. 

"I seed now the brute meant business. He didn't 
wait for me to make the next move. With a dirty 
grunt he leaped for me. At the same time I started 
to jump, but I wasn't quite quick enough; he grabbed 
me by the ankle. 

"Good thing for me the other fellows were still at 
the blacksnake den; they was engaged; they didn't pay 
any attention to me. I could hear their grunts and 
squealin' and fightin' while I was strugglin' with that 
big mad boar; hear it all, though I was near faintin' 
from pain. The brute still held on to my leg ; shook it 
like a dog shakes a rat. Holy cats! how it did hurt. 
I thought he would wrench my foot off. Then the pain 
let up for a little while; I think all feelin' had been 
crushed outter my leg. It seemed numb. I couldn't 
move it. Then the hog leg go but still stood glaring at 
me. I got the use of my axe; raised it up, for I saw 
the big boar was about to come for me again. I dragged 
myself up but I couldn't stand on that foot. It had 
gone limp and lifeless ; hardly any bleeding but the bone 
was crushed. My foot turned under when I tried to 
stand on it. I saw the boar was bent on finishin' me. 

"I backed back against the log, it held me up. The 
boar continued to whip his long tail back and forth like 
a lion. What ? Bet your life it was a long tail ; twice 
as long as any hog's tail I ever seed. And with a bunch 



Joel Smart, The Swamps' First Trapper 63 

at the end of it, too — like a lion's as I'm telling you. 
He grunted and frothed at the mouth all the time, 
moved about from side to side, his eyes blazin' like balls 
of fire. 

"He was slowly workin' nearer. I watched him 
like a- cat watches a mouse. I was gettin' ready for 
him as soon as he come in range. Snappin' his big 
ugly jaws; foamin' and lashin' his tail. He now begin 
to reach for me. With every snap of them ugly, wicked- 
lookin' jaws he stuck out his head in my direction. I 
held back a little longer. That snap barely missed my 
thigh. Xext time 

"I let him have it square between the eyes — not the 
bit but the poll of the axe. I could feel the skull crush 
in. The big bristlin' boar sunk down at my feet. 

"My ankle was useless and hurtin' agin like all out 
doors. I was afraid the bunch of snake-killers would 
find me. I crawled and limped out o' sight. For 
weeks I couldn't walk on that ankle. I cut a crotched 
stick and hobbled about the tepee. How did I live? 
I've been in tight places before. I lived somehow — 
small birds and squirrels and rabbits and sich that come 
within bow shot of my bunk. 

"I swore I'd kill the whole bunch of them wild hogs 
when I got about agin. Or run 'em out of the Swamps. 
I did. I killed most of them with flint-tipped arrows. 
Some I killed with the axe ; I speared two. I remember 
how the Indians used the spear when they'd go for deer 
or bear. I'd lay for them along their runways. I 
think I cleaned up the whole bunch that winter. Had 



64 The Swamps 

plenty of hog meat, too. ^ot bad — used to cook it 
with acorn meal. 

"Yes, sir, them's genuine boar tusks and I got 'em 
all in the Swamps, too." Both my father and Jack 
Kling believed the hogs were of the domestic variety 
strayed away but gone wild a long time in the Swamps. 

Uncle Joel never took to husbandry, and when 
game became scarce his living grew precarious. True, 
he cultivated a little garden but this only supplied 
him with a small part of his living. In summer he 
spent much of his time in the woods. Here he pro- 
cured a sufficient number of squirrels and other small 
game to keep him supplied with meat; this and his 
vegetables kept him from want. But in winter my 
father had to give him flour, meat and groceries to 
prevent him from starving. 

Each year Uncle Joel grew less able to take care 
of himself. At his extreme age he bid fair to become 
a public charge. Still he roamed the forest when 
weather permitted. And we would see him almost 
daily limping through the nearby woods. 

Then we missed him. My father noted it, but 
thought nothing of it. Another day passed without 
seeing the old trapper. Still we thought all was well, 
that Old Joel was hunting in another direction. A 
week thus went by with no signs of the old trapper. 
My father now grew anxious. He called Jack Kling 
and the two of them made their way to Old Joel's 
cabin. The door was closed. There was no response 
to their pounding. The wooden bar across the door 



Joel Smart, The Swamps' First Trapper 65 

was down. Jack Kling went around to the sole window 
and looked in. But the greased paper used as window 
panes did not admit sufficient light to reveal the 
interior. Jack and my father then held a consultation. 
They decided that they would be justified in battering 
down the door. They suspected the old man was dead. 
"With a heavy pole from the wood pile they forced the 
door. The light from the entrance revealed a ghastly 
picture. Squalor and filth was everywhere in evidence. 
On a pallet of dirty straw and rags lay the bloated 
and distorted body of the old man. He had obviously 
been dead for more than a week. An immediate burial 
was demanded. It was a most disagreeable and grue- 
some task. My father sent Jack Kling back to our 
house for a shovel and a spade. When Jack informed 
my mother of his mission, I begged him to take me 
along. My mother reluctantly consented. 

As the crow flies Old Joel's cabin was not far from 
home, but because of my extreme youth Jack found it 
necessary to carry me most of the way on his shoulder. 
I was scarcely old enough to sense the significance of 
death ; at least the death of a human being. I knew 
that animals and birds could be killed but that was by 
the intervention of man. I never thought of birds 
or beasts just dying naturally. And much less of 
people. My mother afterward regretted that she had 
allowed me to go with Jack, for it made a tremendous 
impression on my boyish mind. N^or was it an impres- 
sion that made for happiness. For days after the 
experience I was depressed and morbid. This was 



66 The Swamps 

unusual for my temperament. My mother resorted to 
every means at hand to help me forget the gruesome 
scene. But still I remained gloomy. The whole 
of life seemed tinged with tragedy. This thing must 
come to my brother, to my mother, to my father and 
to myself. I never thought life could ever cease, that 
we could be changed to that horrible bloated carrion 
that I saw Jack and my father put into the ground. 
And the ground, too, was rain-soaked and muddy; full 
of worms and night crawlers. I shivered every time 
I thought of it. Then they shoveled the black, sticky 
mud in on top of him. I could hear every shovelful 
splash in the water that had already begun to collect 
in the bottom of the grave. And Old Uncle Joel's 
puffed-up body was down there in that muddy hole. 
Some day they would put me and everybody I love 
in such an awful place. I could not dismiss the re- 
volting picture from my mind. My mother beguiled 
me with stories and experiences and even quit her 
work and went with me to the Big Ditch and down 
where the wild grapes and black haws grow. We 
gathered meadow lilies along the fence and with Tip 
chased a rabbit to a hollow tree. For the moment my 
mind would be diverted, but again and again it would 
come back to the burial of Uncle Joel Smart. Then 
she tried Bible stories, but they didn't seem to give 
me much satisfaction. She told me of the resurrection 
of the body, of heaven where we would all meet again 
and where death would never come — heaven with harps 
and golden streets. 



Joel Smart, The Swamps' First Trapper 67 

But I was never greatly impressed with the place. 
It was too vague to me, and besides, angels, harps and 
golden streets never seemed quite as attractive as the 
green, moist woods and birds and berries; and the 
flowers and furry things. I always preferred the fields 
to church, that is, up until the time several years later 
when I realized the conviction of original sin and the 
lost state of my soul. Up until that dramatic convic- 
tion I did not concern myself about the future life. 
It was just good to live and enjoy the blessings that 
were spread in reckless profusion all about me. I^ow 
in the ointment of my supreme happiness there was 
the fly of Old Uncle Joel's passing, a positive proof 
that this nightmare, death, was in our midst. 

But Time, the eraser of troubles from the youthful 
slate, finally softened and blurred the haunting picture ; 
and again I took up my old pastimes. But the terrible 
revelation had left an impression on my mind that 
though softened and dimmed by distance never entirely 
disappeared. Years later I sought out Old Joel's grave 
and marked it with an iron stake, and still later 
when the land fell into the hands of my brother, "Willis, 
he set up over the little mound a stone marker. To 
this day it is known as Uncle Joel Smart's grave. 

The old cabin stood rotting away for many years 
after the old trapper's death. We boys used to 
occasionally play in it, and I remember having a 
decided creepy feeling at these times when I thought 
of the possibility of old Joel's ghost coming back and 
"banting" me. 



CHAPTER VII 
A Cabin Close-Up And A Bear 

I HAVE often tried to visualize the "atmosphere" of those 
first few winters my parents passed in the Swamps. 
In midwinter the bridle path that led to the Hills, the 
original and older settlement, was impassable, even for 
horses. Their only neighbors were the two trappers, 
Dink Cherry and Jack Kling. The former was silent, 
unsociable and was seldom seen. His cabin was more 
than a mile away and his presence in the Swamps, as 
a social factor, was negligible. Jack Kling's cabin 
was nearer. It stood in the edge of the woods just 
beyond the farther border of our clearing. It was 
but a short walk across the clearing to Jack's shack. 
And, too. Jack was sociable, boyishly frank, and he 
liked my parents. I have often wondered why Jack, 
with his nature, chose the calling of a trapper. But 
for the fact that my parents came into the Swamps 
to live, I believe he soon would have given it up. 

So Jack, after he had recovered from his embarrass- 
ment caused by the presence of my mother, became a 
frequent caller at our cabin during that first winter 
and frequently helped my father during those trying 
days in his unceasing efforts to make life here tolerable. 
For this work he neither received nor expected any 
pay, that is, in money. But both my father and mother 
were keenly appreciative of Jack's attitude and 
rewarded him by any means at hand, for not only the 



70 The Swamps 

material help he rendered but also the moral support 
his presence gave. From the first Jack ahvays seemed 
to "fit in" with the family. By the time I was old 
enough to remember him I looked upon him with 
almost as much regard as I did upon my own parents. 
As that first winter wore on Jack was much at our 
cabin. He brought venison and bear steak; and 
sassafras root for tea. He also shared his stock of 
nuts, gathered the autumn before, with my parents. 
My father often told me of the evenings they spent 
together during those first lonesome months. When 
the sun fell below the western timber line and wrapped 
the Swamps in impenetrable gloom Jack could often 
be seen emerging from the edge of the woods at the 
farther side of the clearing. Striking across the 
clearing in the direction of our cabin, his ungainly but 
rapid stride soon brought him to our door. To Jack 
the latchstring was always out ; he was always welcome. 
The three of them were soon gathered about the blazing 
fire "eatin' nuts and crackin' jokes," or engaged in 
preparing the evening meal. Many an otherwise long 
evening would be thus passed in comparative comfort 
in the solitude of the Swamps. Jack helped my mother 
in the harder work about the cabin as well as my 
father in the woods. Most of his time after making 
the rounds of his traps and skinning his catches was 
spent in my parents' company. And in turn my 
mother saw that his clothes were kept in repair. Jack 
himself initiated her into the intricacies of sewing 
skins together with thongs or sinews. In this way 



A Cabin Close-Up And A Bear 71 

she fashioned several bear skin rugs for the rough, 
cold cabin floor. Also covers for the cabin bunk. 

Many was the meal they took together, meals like 
all of them, prepared over the living coals of the 
fireplace. My father averred that never since the 
introduction of the modern cook stove has meat, 
especially venison, tasted so delicious as that broiled 
over live coals raked forward to the earthen hearth ; 
coals that were still redolent of the pungent smell of 
the green wood. My mother's stock of cooking utensils 
at first did not exceed six or eight articles and with 
these they managed to prepare the meals. I almost 
envied them when in later years they related these 
experiences, for to me it seemed like a perpetual outing 
that always stimulated my imagination. Then some- 
times wolves would appear in the clearing and Jack 
would have to wait till they dispersed before he started 
on the short journey to his own shack. These scenes 
became so vividly fixed in my boyish mind that even 
at this distance I can easily picture them. The cabin 
is filled with the savory odors of the broiling meat. 
Jack takes the spit into his hands while my mother 
gets the table ready, for Jack is an adept at cooking 
over coals or an open fire. Many a week he had passed 
alone in the forest when his meals were ahvays cooked 
over a fagot fire. On occasions, later in life, we boys 
used to induce Jack to come to the woods with us and 
cook. BCow he could cook ! And in the absence of 
venison he practiced the art with equal success on the 
chicken we brought with us. So I know what a famous 



72 The Swamps 

cook Jack was, and it required but little imagination 
to picture Jack, then a young man, in our primitive 
home leaning over a glowing bed of coals while the 
venison sputtered and browned to a turn under his 
watchful eye. Then I can see the table made of logs 
split and hewed flat with the broad ax, and supported 
by posts set between the logs of the punchion floor. 
I can see these three young people as they draw their 
homemade chairs around the table. The flare of the 
wide-mouthed fireplace cast Rembrandtish shadows on 
their rugged faces. The winter winds roar through 
the woods and the mighty oaks strain and creak and 
moan out their defiance. A wolf howls in the distance 
and the men cast significant glances in the direction 
of Long Tom above the door. But there is a sense 
of comfort in it all. Solitude makes of them close 
companions. Their isolation creates a sense of mutual 
dependence. 

Then after the frugal meal is finished and the 
cooking utensils cleansed and hung in their places on 
the wall, my father takes up his ribbons of oak and 
ribs of hickory and starts a basket. Basket making 
not only helped to pass the long evenings but provided 
useful household articles as well. Jack whittles a new 
wooden dish from the disk of maple he has already 
roughly hewn into shape with his ax. And my mother 
busies Herself putting together, from several separate 
pelts, a new fur rug; or puts the finishing touches to a 
new coon skin cap for my father. Maybe she is 
starting, from her meagre scraps of cloth, her first 



A Cabix Close-Up And A Bear 73 

log-cabin quilt. She is not spinning wool, for at this 
early date no sheep, no spinning wheel, no carpet loom 
was nearer than the distant Hill settlement, and what- 
ever she did in the way of household articles was of 
necessity of the most primitive nature. 

Then Jack and my father would talk, talk of the 
weather, the woods, the wild animals and the prospect 
of an early spring. Jack would tell of his experiences 
in the Swamps, of that winter a few years ago that 
he spent with Dink Cherry, of Dink's reticence and 
solitary ways. I can imagine this trio as they sat in 
the firelight; Jack in his bearskin coat, his deer 
leather trousers, his coonskin cap, and his fur-lined 
moccasins; and my father with his black beard, his 
black, neck-length hair and his home spun clothing. 
A little at the side of the fireplace and deeper in the 
shadow sat my mother with her hands employed in 
what they found to do. The hoe cake for breakfast 
was cooking in the corner of the fireplace, the pan 
covered with ashes and live coals. Maybe the corn is 
also being parched for the morning coffee. At any rate 
these things were done daily. At intervals Jack would 
report progress on his wooden plate. Some of these 
wooden plates survived till my time and I have often 
examined them critically. Certainly when we consider 
the implements used in their manufacture they were 
a decided credit to the artificer. 

What an escape these evenings must have been, to 
all three of them, from the daily rounds of the traps, 
from the monotonous sound of the axe ! 



74 The Swamps 

Then as Jack arose to go to his cabin he would 
cautiously open the door and listen — listen for the cry 
of wolves. If no sounds were heard he would make his 
awkward adieu, in his own way, for Jack never seemed 
able to take leave gracefully. With the stealthy glide 
of the trained frontiersman he disappeared across the 
clearing and entered the edge of the woods beyond. 
The embers on his own hearth glowed as he added fresh 
fuel. Then he lowered the wooden bar across his cabin 
door and crawled into his wall bunk. Some nights the 
wind would howl and the frosty timber creak and moan 
under its stress. Hungry timber wolves would add to 
the dismal din. Many a night like this my parents 
would lie awake in the middle of this lonely stretch of 
dismal swampland and wait for the reassuring dawn. 
Doctors? surgeons? priests? preachers? I^one were 
within a hundred miles. They were their own doctors, 
their own priests, their own spiritual comforters. 
They had to be. It was fortunate that Jack Kling, 
honest, helpful, ignorant Jack, lived within reach. 
Without this escape, this human companionship, I fear 
that my parents in that first desolate winter would not 
have weathered the trying experience. Already Jack 
had saved my father's life. Without him this daring 
experiment of going to the Swamps must have 
terminated disastrously. 

And yet this dismal life was not without its elements 
of humor. My father has often laughed heartily at 
some of the funny things that occurred in these initial 
winters of their residence in the Swamps. And if by 



A Cabix Close-Up Axd A Bear 75 

book or crook he could fasten the joke upon my mother 
his enjoyment was accordingly heightened. 

My father used to take especial delight in telling 
the story of how my mother one day during that first 
winter in the Swamps was chased and finally overtaken 
by a bear. I always thought my father greatly exag- 
gerated and embellished the part my mother played in 
the incident ; she, herself, frequently intimated as much, 
which furnished ample excuse for both my younger 
brother and me, though the occurrence happened long 
before we were born, invariably to take sides with her. 
That was natural enough, however, for while we 
respected and honored our father's rugged honesty, 
rigid uprightness, and unswerving devotion to principle, 
there was lacking in him that quality of mercy that 
we could always depend upon finding in our mother. 
It, therefore, became an early habit of ours when we 
found ourselves in difficulties to go to her rather than 
to our father; for whatever our troubles happened to 
be, we always found in her a sympathetic listener and 
one who never considered our childish problems too 
trivial to take up her time or too unimportant to 
warrant her in refusing to help solve them. 

So when mother became the butt of any joke, 
especially when it was directed, even in jest, against 
her courage in the face of danger, we boys with some 
show of feeling always came to her rescue. This 
pugnacious attitude which the incident of the bear 
invariably aroused in us may explain, to some extent, 
why my father always seemed to take such pleasure in 



76 The Swamps 

relating it, for he never referred to it in our absence, 
which tends to confirm my suspicions that it was told 
as much to stir up our protests as it was intended to 
tease our mother. 

During that first winter in the Swamps my father's 
time was especially precious; for rails had to be split 
to inclose his few acres of cleared ground in which he 
proposed to begin farming, and these crops must be 
protected from the depredations of our animal 
neighbors, those four-footed vegetarians that could 
browse away and trample down faster than the husband- 
man could grow. So in order to save time for my 
father it was the habit of my mother to bring at least 
one meal a day to where my father was working instead 
of compelling him to come to the cabin to eat. 

On this particular day my mother had prepared 
an especially attractive lunch. It included in the 
contents of the homemade basket a jar of Avild honey. 
This honey was a part of that taken from a bee tree 
my father had located and looted the autumn before. 
On these occasions my mother would usually include 
her own lunch with father's and they would sit down 
in front of a fire which my father would build and eat 
their midday meal together. Then while father rested 
they would sit and talk. This al fresco dining always 
strongly appealed to me, and I always loved to hear 
them tell about these picnic meals in the open. 

On the occasion of which I speak my mother as 
usual visited for a time with my father. Then as my 
father again took up his axe she started for the cabin. 



A Cabix CLOSE-Ur And A Bear 77 

But the day was fine and she loitered along the edge of 
the woods. On her way she came upon a bush of red 
winter berries, and wishing to carry a bunch of them 
home for decorative purposes, she set her basket down 
and began breaking off the most attractive branches. 
But just as she was reaching for the last crimson cluster 
she heard a noise immediately behind her. She turned 
around and to her great consternation a bear was at her 
heels. She gave a scream that my father declared 
rocked the vast solitude of the Swamps, and that 
momentarily startled Bruin sufficiently to cause his 
retreat from the honey jar into which he had already 
thrust his muzzle. Obeying the pioneer instinct of 
food conservation, my mother grabbed the basket and 
made a dash for the cabin. The bear finding his honey 
gone and gaining fresh courage by my mother's 
precipitate flight immediately started in pursuit. My 
father follow^ed, but recognizing the marauder as Dink 
Cherry's pet cinnamon bear, he felt that there was no 
real danger, and guessing Bruin's motive for following, 
cried out to my mother to drop the basket. But she 
either didn't hear him or was too wrought up to 
understand. At any rate she still held on to the basket 
that contained the honey. She dashed madly out into 
the clearing. But the bear followed and was slowly 
gaining on her. Glancing back and seeing the bear 
had all but overtaken her, she became paralyzed with 
fear, and her feet refused to carry her further. She 
fancied her doom was at hand. But when Bruin came 
up, instead of attacking her, he pulled the basket from 



78 The Swamps 

her hand and his muzzle was soon immersed again in 
the jar of honey. At this point my father reached 
my mother's side. But so convulsed was he with 
laughter that he was powerless to drag the bear from 
his honeyed feast. At this apparent poltroonery my 
mother's fright changed to withering scorn. She could 
see nothing at all funny in the situation. With her 
rising indignation my father declared she began to pour 
out upon his defenseless head a stream of sarcasm as 
biting as a killing frost. All the while my father's 
boisterous laughter seemed utterly beyond his control. 
At length my mother, too, recognized Dink's pet bear. 
The cause of my father's hilarity now became clear to 
her. But it only served to increase her indignation. 
After delivering herself of her opinion of any man who 
would take advantage of a situation like this to become 
maudlin with merriment, she marched away in high 
dudgeon to the cabin. My father insists that for a 
week she scarcely spoke to him, and that he feared the 
incident would finally disrupt their hitherto peaceful 
domestic relations. 

Thus he would good-naturedly continue to torment 
my mother till my youngest brother and I came to her 
rescue ; for my two older brothers and only sister having 
grown up and left home the defense of my mother fell 
wholly upon ourselves. 

"What about the time the bear kept you up the 
persimmon tree for nearly an hour?" I would remind 
father. "I'll bet you were scared good enough then." 



A Cabin Close-Up And A Beak 79 

"Yes, sir, I bet you — you wuz," my younger brother 
would pipe in. "And you — you — had your big 
bo-bo-bowie knife, too," continued my little brother, 
sputtering out his tangled words in his growing ardor. 
"I bet if mom 'ud a bin there and had a bo-bo-bowie 
knife she 'ud a jist cut that ole bear's head off, she 'ud; 
and a clum down and come home. She 'udn't a waited 
for that ole bear to eat his skin full o' 'simmons ! j^o, 
sir." 

"You was just plain scared, dad; you know you 
was, and you have no right to make fun of mom," I 
would add. 

But my father always countered with, "Xow you 
don't understand it at all. I wasn't afraid; not a bit 
of it. I saw the bear coming for a mess of persimmons, 
and I had plenty of time to climb down and get out 
of his way. But I always like to see bears eat ; they 
go about it so funny, especially when they eat per- 
simmons; and I just enjoyed sitting up there in the 
top of that persimmon tree and watching Bruin take 
his meal from the lower limbs. Besides I knew I would 
get him later — when he was good and fat — and then 
he would turn out a lot of bear grease and steak; and 
I didn't want to disturb him. Xot only that but it is 
my opinion that a persimmon-fed bear is the only bear 
that will produce grease that will cure colds. Per- 
simmons add a medicinal quality to the grease that 
grease obtained from bears that have had no persimmons 
don't have. Ask your mother if the grease we had that 
winter didn't work like magic on your brother, Willis, 



80 The Swamps 

then only a baby of a few months. Why, he would 
have died with croupy colds if it hadn't been for that 
grease. And your mother, too, near had pneumonia 
once — ^would have had it, for everything pointed that 
way — but for that precious grease. Red flannel and 
that persimmon-fed bear grease in my opinion saved 
your mother's life." 

It was lucky we knew the story of how a bear once 
kept my father a prisoner for nearly an hour in a 
persimmon tree that grew at the edge of the Swamps — 
the edge bordering on the Hills to the south. I say 
at the edge of the Hills, for no persimmons ever grew 
in the marshy lands of the true Swamps. 

On this occasion my father was passing in the 
neighborhood of this particular persimmon tree and he 
was fond of persimmons. So bent on obtaining a meal 
of the luscious fruit, he climbed to the topmost branches 
where the largest and ripest persimmons hung in 
tempting clusters. 

While thus pleasantly occupied he heard a scratch- 
ing at the bottom of the tree. Because of the thick 
branches he could not make out the cause of the 
commotion. But the explanation was soon forth- 
coming. In a moment a big, black bear thrust his 
muzzle through the thick branches of the tree not five 
feet below where my father was perched. I dare say 
my father was, to put it mildly, a little surprised, 
though he would never admit that he was frightened. 

But Bruin was not seeking mischief; he was in the 
persimmon tree for the same reason that brought my 



A Cabix Close-Up And A Bear 81 

father there — to dine on persimmons — and after a 
disdainful sniff at my father he proceeded to gather 
in the fruit. In the meantime my father was compelled 
to wait on the pleasure of the black bear. 

"I just sat in the crotch of the tree and watched 
him/' my father would say in the most casual manner. 
"I watched him pretty close " 

This was our opportunity; it was just what we 
wanted him to say, and we would both break in with, 
"You bet you watched him pretty close, 'cause you was 
afraid he'd bite you." 

Thus the parry and thrust would go on, father 
always meeting our accusations with a suitable 
rejoinder. We could never get the best of him, compel 
him to admit he was scared. We even submitted the 
case to Jack Kling, and Jack always sided with us. 
"And," said Jack, "if George meant to cast any slur 
on your mother's bravery we'll teach him a lesson ; some 
night we'll dress up as Indians and take your dad 
unawares and yell and brandish tomahawks" — Jack 
had a collection of them — "and then see if he won't 
keep still about that bear story." 

This always greatly appealed to us, but whenever 
we would set a definite time for giving father his 
salutary lesson Jack would always plead some excuse. 

So the disciplinary measure was never meted out, 
and my father continued to enjoy telling the story of 
how Dink Cherry's pet bear chased my mother out of 
the woods and into the clearing. 



CHAPTER VIII 
Willis And The Wolf 

Wolves! Wolves! Wolves! Gray, sneaking timber 
wolves ! It was always a wolf, a cowardly, contemp- 
tible timber wolf at the bottom of every animal crime. 
Did the luckless settler discover the remnants of a 
prized lamb or promising pig in the edge of the forest, 
wolf tracks proclaimed the culprit that had partaken 
of the stolen feast. When the lonely trapper made the 
rounds of his traps, if overtaken by the gathering gloom, 
it was the green, rapacious eyes of the wolf that peered 
at him from the bordering brush. Did a bear or deer 
fall into the clutches of the trap, it was the cowardly 
wolf pack that fell upon it in its helplessness and tore 
it to pieces. When one of their o^vn kind grew weak 
or became disabled, they invariably turned cannibal, 
and devoured it. 

And so when a timber wolf fell, the settlers rejoiced ; 
one less of the hated pack remained to be reckoned 
with. When food was plentiful, they seldom attacked 
man unless cornered or when mother instinct drove 
them to acts of desperation and rashness. On the other 
hand this same mother instinct when thwarted developed 
a tenderness that led them to adopt lambs, pigs and 
puppy dogs to take the place of their dead or captured 
young. She wolves have been known to fight for these 
strange foster babies with as much viciousness as they 
would for their own kind. 



84 The Swamps 

Only in the light of this latter characteristic can the 
strange experience that once fell to my baby brother, 
"Willis, be explained. 

^ot infrequently during that second winter in the 
Swamps my father would take Willis with him to his 
work in the woods. My mother on these occasions 
usually wrapped up the baby, papoose fashion, in a 
strong, handmade quilt, and pinned it securely in place. 
Thus bundled up, my father with Willis, his axe, and a 
big bear skin rug would start to the woods, where his 
time was employed in clearing away the forest for 
additional ground for cultivation. On the sunny side 
of some big tree my father would spread out the rug, 
in the folds of which he would place Willis where the 
baby would coo and kick for hours, his cheeks like roses, 
while he watched, with his big blue eyes, the chips fly 
from my father's resounding axe. Then late in the 
afternoon his lids would droop, and my father usually 
returned at night with Willis fast asleep. 

One afternoon in late winter Willis was in the 
woods with my father. It was already dusk and Willis 
was sleeping soundly. Just one more tree my father 
wished to fell before quitting. This particular tree 
would fall in Willis' direction and the top might reach 
him. In order to remove any danger my father carried 
the sleeping baby about a hundred feet away and 
farther into the forest. Here he deposited bear rug 
and baby at the base of a great oak, and in order to 
insure protection from any stray limbs that might be 
broken off and hurled in Willis' direction when the 



Willis Axd The Wolf 85 

tree he was chopping fell, he placed him on the far 
side of the protecting oak. He chopped briskly, for it 
was already growing dark. Soon the great tree began 
to creak and crack and then with a mighty crash it fell 
to the ground. Replacing his bear-skin coat, my father 
now started to get Willis and go home. 

In the deeper fringe of the forest, shadows were 
already bordering on darkness, and when he came to 
the foot of the oak, he could only make out the outline 
of the bear-skin rug in the gathering gloom. "Still 
fast asleep as usual,'' was my father's mental comment, 
as he reached down to feel for Willis. But instead of 
coming in contact with the bundled-up baby, his hands 
only touched the fur of the rug. Then he knelt down 
and his wide, excited eyes now penetrated the gloom; 
but not a trace of Willis could be discovered. He lifted 
the rug clear of the ground; he pressed it with his 
hands; shook it; mauled it; but nothing of Willis. 
Something frightful had occurred. And as the tragedy 
registered its full meaning in my father's brain, he 
became panic-stricken and desperate. But the loss of 
his self control was only momentary; he was too much 
of a pioneer and woodsman to lose his senses long. 
"This is the work of a wolf," he soon decided. And 
the picture of what might be happening at that very 
time brought a horrifying, sinking sensation; a slowing 
of the heart, a paralysis of the hand. He afterward 
declared that it seemed hours he stood there by the 
empty bear skin numbed and stunned by the over- 
whelming discovery. Then the man of action asserted 



86 The Swamps 

himself, and he rushed through the brush hither and 
thither; but to no purpose. ISTot a sign of Willis could 
be found. He bethought himself of Jack Kling's cabin, 
of flares, of Dink Cherry and of his wife — ah ! his 
grief-stricken young wife. "To her first of all," he said 
aloud, and to the cabin he flew. As he expected my 
mother met the blow with her accustomed courage. 
For a moment only she stood dazed with blanched face 
and a feeling of desperate dizziness. Then she grabbed 
an axe, my father his gun, and with a tallow dip for 
starting flares, together they hurried to the forest. In 
a moment my father had lighted a great bonfire of 
logs and brush which at this time of the year, when 
"deadenings" were not aflame, was unusual. These 
signal fires when discovered by the settlers were usually 
interpreted as signs of distress — as calls for help in case 
of danger. Jack Kling saw it first and hurried to the 
scene. In a few words he was told the story. "Go 
down towards Dink's cabin and set another signal," my 
father commanded, "xind take a torch with you; and 
look for fresh tracks; whistle if you find any." 

Jack's round, jolly face went white at the news, for 
Willis, the first baby born in the Swamps, had already 
cooed his way to the innermost chambers of Jack 
Kling's heart; Jack, the bashful, the distressed in the 
presence of every strange woman. 

"A wolf, a ," and Jack swore a great 

oath as he hurried to follow my father's instructions. 

In the meantime, my mother had collected half a 
dozen bundles of dry twigs and was binding them with 



Willis Axd The Wolf 87 

bark into torches. From the bonfire she lighted one of 
them and started to penetrate the forest. My father, 
after starting another fire, to act as a guide beacon in 
determining directions, followed my mother's example, 
and the two at a distance of about two hundred feet 
apart began combing the forest. After about half an 
hour the flare of Jack's beacon could be seen slowly 
rising towards the starlit sky. This was encouraging, 
for now I)ink Cherry would see the signal and hasten 
to the spot. In the meantime, my parents burned out a 
dozen flares, but not a sign, not a track, not a broken 
twig could be found. 

It was nearly midnight when the four — Jack, Dink 
and my parents — met for a conference. Jack and Dink 
had ranged to the south, my father and mother had 
searched to the north. Dink, the silent, was the first 
to speak. He was a man of few words and those 

mostly profane. "Well, I'll be ." As usual 

he opened with an oath. But pruned of profanity 
Dink continued, "I can't make it out." Then after 
a pause he addressed my father, "Greorge, you're sure 
you brought the baby with you, that he is not asleep in 
the cabin?" At this Jack Kling trying to rise to the 
luridness of Dink's profanity, but failing utterly, asked 
him if he took George for an idiot ; that what was his 
"idee" of sense anyhow. "Well, I once knowed a man 

." Jack cut him short, "This hain't no time 

to tell what you once knowed; we've lost Willis, our 
first white baby born in the Swamps; if you got any 
idee that will help us find him dead or " Jack 



88 The Swamps 

choked at the word and my mother winced. "What I 
wuz goin' to say, Dink, what we want is to find Willis — 
what's your idee?" 

"Well, I calkerlate Willis is alive and all right, 
only we got to find him." 

Then after a pause Dink continued. "And I'll tell 
you why I think he's all right. I've been catching 
whelps lately in a trap down by the big swale — think 
I got six altogether — not half grown. And several 
times I saw a she wolf around there, too. There's a 
big hollow sycamore tree layin' right at the edge of 
the swale; must be five feet through; been layin' there 
since last summer's big storm. I never looked into it, 
but I have an all-fired idee that Willis is inside that 
there sycamore tree as snug as in his own cradle." This 
sounded to Jack like the vaporings of a disordered 
mind, and he told Dink as much. But Dink just con- 
temptuously curled his lips and looked superior. The 
two eyed each other for a moment. Then my father, 
willing to heed anything in his desperation, said, "Well, 
Dink, it seems like a wild man's dream, but we at least 
can range the woods in that direction. We haven't 
covered that section yet." 

And so it was arranged, though Jack was obviously 
skeptical. "Yes," said Dink, "we can range down 
that-a-way though I don't say I can locate the hollow 
sycamore tree at night. I know about where it is, 
but I have to get my bearings in daytime to always 
come upon it." 

"Do you know it's the wolf's den ?" my father asked. 



Willis And The Wolf 89 

"Xot for sure," Dink replied, "I never got clost 
enough to look into it — never cared to since I begin 
getting them young whelps in my trap ; but I saw the 
she wolf there several times and I sez to myself, ^That's 
about where she had ^em, in that old hollow tree.' Xo, 
it was generally late when I got that far on my rounds, 
and I never actually looked into the log." 

So Dink led the searching party in the general 
direction of the big swale, my mother gathering brush 
for new torches as the old ones burned out. It was 
four o'clock, according to Dink's reading of the stars, 
before a sign of anything bigger than the tracks of a 
possum or coon could be discovered. Then Dink 
Cherry, the crafty woodsman, that he was, called Jack 
Kling to where he was examining a bit of marsh. 
"There's the critter's track," said Dink, pointing to a 
fresh imprint in the mud. "The very same one I seed 
around the old sycamore log." 

"How do you make that out ?" asked Jack. 

"Because it's got a toe missing from its left hind 
foot," Dink replied, pointing his flare to the impress 
of the injured foot. "That's why," Dink answered with 
an air of finality. "When I first seed that track in 
the mud near the big swale I sez to myself, 'That old 
cuss had a narrow escape one time. It had a bad 
toothache in that toe when it sprung the trap that 
clipped it off.' ]^o, sir, you can't fool me; that's the 
wolf that carried Willis aM^ay. Can't you see how 
deep its paws have sunk into the mud? That was 



90 The Swamps 

because the old she devil was goldarned pretty heavy 
loaded. Willis must weigh nearly as much as a half 
grown lamb?" 

"Dunno," answered Jack, now immersed in deep 
thought. Then after a little while Jack continued, 
"Say, Dink, what did you mean by saying that Willis 
would be alive if we found him?" 

"I meant just what I meant," was Dink's cryptic 
reply, "and I mean it more'n ever after seeing them 
tracks." 

"Say, Dink, you are rummy; but we'll follow your 
lead. Leastwise you found a wolf track; that's mor'n 
the rest of us has done." Then after a pause, "Dink, 
you do iigger we are near that sycamore log?" 

"[N'ot far from it," Dink replied. 

"Can you follow that track ?" 

"Yep," Dink replied, "as fast as I want to." 

"You ain't afraid to follow it, are you. Dink?" 

"^o, not on account of the wolf." 

"What then?'' 

"On account of Willis." 

Jack was wholly mystified and pressed Dink for 
further explanation. 

"You got all you'll get tonight," snapped Dink, 
"now keep your mouth shut, and don't tell George and 
'Lizabeth what we seed here in the mud; just range 
round here pretending to look for tracks till daylight." 

Jack reluctantly obeyed all the while pondering 
Dink's vague remarks. 



Willis And The Wolf 91 

Finally Aveary and worn my parents came up with 
Dink and Jack and asked if they had seen any signs. 
"Xo-o, not exactly," Dink temporized, "but I think 
by daylight we might find something." 

They had not long to wait, for already the lace- 
like twigs of the tallest trees began to etch their outline 
against the brightening sky. Dink stumbled over 
something soft. He had overtaken a possum just 
making for its den. The contact with Dink's foot 
caused the animal to "play possum," that is, to roll over 
and pretend to be dead. 

"Kill it. Dink," Jack urged. "We'll have a bite of 
it while we are waiting for daylight." A thud followed 
Jack's command, and a nice possum steak was soon 
spitted and sputtering above a twig fire. Of course, 
my parents were in no mood to eat. But at the behest 
of the two hardy trappers they consented to force down 
a bit of the tender meat that broiled carefully over the 
wood fire would, at any other time, have been accounted 
delicious. Dink and Jack finished the choice cuts of 
the carcass. It was now broad daylight. 

"Now," said Dink, "keep together and follow me." 

In half an hour Dink had pushed through the 
underbrush to within a few feet of the hollow sycamore 
log that lay at the edge of the Swale. 

"There it is," he motioned to Jack as he pointed 
to the hollow log. "]N^ow go back and tell George and 
'Lizabeth to wait where they are; we don't want no 
carrying on here — ." 



92 The Swamps 

"You mean 'Lizabeth?" snorted Jack. "If jou do, 
she ain't goin' to make no trouble; better tell 'em to 
follow; we may need 'em." 

"All right/' Dink assented though plainly skeptical 
about my mother's ability to refrain from "carrying on" 
if the worst happened ; or the best, as Dink hoped. In 
either case he had no confidence in my mother's self 
control. 

When my parents came up. Dink announced his 
surmise that Willis was in the hollow log. "I believe 
he is safe and if we work it right we'll get him out 
without a scratch." Then he turned his eyes on my 
mother, half expecting her to promptly go into "a spell." 
But she did nothing of the kind and Jack gave Dink 
a look of "I told you so." Instead my mother took the 
liveliest interest in the plan of approaching the log and 
gave several practical suggestions as to disposing of our 
forces. Jack Kling took little stock in Dink's belief 
that Willis would be found safe in the hollow of the big 
sycamore log, "For," said he, "how in tarnation could 
a wolf carry that baby all the way to the log without 
injuring him ?" 

"Easy enough," said Dink; "wasn't he wrapped 
and pinned tight as a papoose in that log-cabin quilt? 
The wolf's teeth would never touch him; and besides 
how do they carry their own whelps around from place 
to place without hurting them. I seed a wolf ." 

"I^ever mind what you seed, we're waiting ; how are 
you going to go up to the log?" Jack interrupted 
impatiently. 



Willis And The Wolf 93 

Dink announced his plan and took command of the 
arrangements. Jack and Dink armed with their axes 
and knives were to approach the open mouth of the 
log from opposite directions while my father similarly 
armed was to take up a position in front and some 
distance away from the entrance. My mother was to 
keep in his rear. 

Gradually and cautiously Dink and Jack closed in 
on the log. Then they stopped and listened. Jack 
thought he heard a stir within. Both now approached 
the opening one on either side. Dink stooped over the 
rim of the log and peered in. Far back in the darkness 
of the interior two blazing balls of fire met his eyes. 
"She's there," Dink whispered, "and she's going to fight 
to the last ditch." They didn't have long to wait, for 
following the sound of scraping claws against the dry 
dead wood inside, the she wolf's muzzle appeared at the 
entrance growling in a most menacing manner. Jack 
made a swing at the enraged beast's head, but in his 
haste the axe fell short, and the wolf withdrew again 
into the interior. But not for long. 

Again the snarling head of the wolf appeared at 
the opening. Dink waited till her head, with jaws 
snapping and snarling first at him and then turning in 
Jack's direction, was clear of the opening. Dink's 
eyes were steely; his muscles like iron. Measuring the 
distance with his eagle eyes and awaiting till the wolfs 
head was turned toward Jack, he swung his axe aloft 
and then with the force of a pile driver and the speed 
of an arrow it fell upon the projecting head. The axe 



94 The Swamps 

struck fairly on top of the wolfs skull and all but 
severed the head in twain. With a deep, gurgling 
groan and frothing blood at her mouth, the wolf sank 
to the floor of the log in a quivering, twitching mass 
of limp flesh. The axe, still wedged in the wolf's skull, 
was with some difficulty wrenched away. My parents 
rushed up, and the three men dragged the body of the 
wolf clear of the log. My mother in her anxiety 
started to crawl into the interior of the log, but my 
father restrained her. At the same time Dink warned 
them that the she wolf's mate might be within. 
Cautiously he lowered his head and shaded his eyes and 
took another look within the dark hollow of the log. 
All was silent save a stirring sound as of rustling leaves. 

"The coast is clear I guess," Dink announced as he 
began to crawl into the log. Jack and my parents 
hovered about the mouth of the log and strained their 
ears to catch the least sound inside. Their hearts beat 
violently. Minutes seemed hours. They could not see 
beyond the dark bulk of Dink's body as it squirmed its 
way farther and farther into the cavernous hollow of 
the giant sycamore. Then they heard a gurgling sound, 
the soft coo of a crowing baby. A fervent "Thank 
God !" escaped from my mother's lips. A few minutes 
later Dink backed out of the log with Willis in his 
arms. 

Willis was still encased in his log-cabin quilt with 
not a pin disturbed. My mother clasped her unscathed 
baby to her breast in a frenzy of joy, crying and 
laughing at the same time. She rocked the now cooing 



Willis And The Wolf 95 

boy on her breast. Dink sat in a limp heap on the end 
of the log. My father was overwhelmed with joy. 
Some time was required before the searchers again 
gained command of themselves. Then Jack Kling 
began to build a fire, for the chill morning air, as re- 
action set in, now penetrated to the bone. 

My mother sat on a log in front of the crackling 
fire and prepared to give Willis his breakfast. But 
Willis was indifferent to the breast. Instead he gurgled 
and waved his chubby fists aloft all the while refusing 
to take the proffered meal. This was a matter of 
surprise to all of them. Then Dink, winking at Jack, 
motioned to the moist teats of the dead wolf. 



CHAPTER IX 

The First Crop And The Last Wolf 

The result of my father's first attempt at farming in 
the Swamps was most gratifying. The trapper who 
occupied the cabin before it fell into my father's hands 
had partially cleared away about two acres of the 
surrounding forest. During his first winter here my 
father removed the remaining underbrush and logs 
from this land and prepared it for planting. The 
following summer, as luck would have it, proved to be 
unusually dry. This worked out to the vast advantage 
of his experiment, for normally the Swamps undrained 
was too wet for growing farm products. Contrariwise, 
the season proved unfavorable for farming in the Hills, 
for here the land to grow good crops required no small 
amount of moisture. 

So my father fenced and planted his two acres; 
fenced it w^ith a high stake-and-rider rail fence, for 
deer would consume and trample down faster than 
the farmer could grow, and deer at this time were 
plentiful. 

From his relations in the Hills he obtained seed. 
It was a laborious task from planting to harvest, for 
this root-matted, virgin forest soil for the most part 
had to be prepared and cultivated by hand. True, 
old Ned with a single-shovel plow, did what he could, 
but tree stumps and unrotted roots so seriously 



98 The Swamps 

handicapped horse cultivation that the hoeing, digging 
and weeding fell largely to my father's hand. 

But if the lahor was great, the harvest was abundant. 
N'ever had my father seen such vigorous vegetation; 
never had he known such mammoth growths. Corn 
grew to the height of young saplings; potatoes burst 
the ground asunder; cabbage headed into incredible 
size. Turnips reached the dimensions of small pump- 
kins, while my mother's garden of salads, savories, 
and legumes grew into a tangled mass of luxuriant 
herbage. It was a bumper crop, and the family's 
supply of farm products for the next winter was 
assured. 

The news of my father's success at farming in the 
Swamps soon reached the Hills, and many of his 
relations undertook the tiresome horseback ride through 
the forest to his clearing to verify in person these rosy 
reports. One and all were amazed at the achievement. 
Some of them "came to scoff, but all remained to pray." 
Interest was at once aroused in the despised Swamps. 

But while it was now conceded that the soil of the 
Swamps possessed almost inexhaustible fertility, still 
the next summer, a normally seasonable summer, 
resulted in utter failure. The ordinary rainfall proved 
sufficient to drown out all crops in the Swamps. My 
father was disappointed but not discouraged. He knew 
that once the Swamps could be successfully drained, 
he held in his hand the key to tremendous agricultural 
possibilities. But how to drain the Swamps — that 
was the question. It was plain to him that without 



The First Crop And The Last Wolf 99 

an adequate outlet the old lake basin would always 
remain too wet for agriculture. 

In the autumn following that second summer he 
took my mother and baby brother, Willis, to the Hills. 
Here he left them in care of his parents while he 
prepared to make a tour of investigation around the 
rim of the Swamps. xVfter a week on horseback he 
returned and announced his findings. At the south- 
western border of the Swamps he discovered a deep 
ravine that extended through the rim and took off in 
the direction of the river. At the bottom of this ravine 
trickled a small stream. This stream he traced to the 
level of the Swamps. It was fed from this extensive 
area of marshland. This ravine obviously was the 
ancient outlet of the glacial lake. But with the melting 
of the ice eons of ages ago, and the consequent cessation 
of the supply of water, the overflow had dwindled to a 
little, trickling stream. 

But to my father it meant a means of draining 
the Swamps. By deepening this ravine and extending 
the channel into the heart of the Swamps the surplus 
water could be drawn off. But where could the means 
to do this big job be obtained? The Hill farmers were 
well enough off but possessed no extra time or money 
for the undertaking. Then, too, my father's claim 
lay far away from this ravine. It would require years 
to hew down the forest and extend the canal to his 
possessions. It was a discouraging outlook, but my 
father never lost faith in its final accomplishment. 

He induced several of the family relations to go 



100 The Swamps 

with, him to the ravine. It was only a day's ride 
there and back. They agreed that the plan was 
feasible, and one of his brothers took up a claim just 
inside the Swamps opposite the outlet. This farm 
would be the first to reap the benefit of the drainage. 
This brother, Uncle Allen, the next winter began 
clearing away the forest on his claim. What trees 
he failed to fell he turned into a ^'deadening," that is, 
he girdled them by chopping through the bark all the 
way around the outside which resulted in the death of 
the tree. This formed a "deadening" which in a year 
or two could, in a dry period, be fired and almost 
completely burned to the ground. The firing of a 
deadening always proved to be a strong appeal to my 
boyish imagination. Indeed, a deadening in full blast 
was far from a commonplace sight. This was always 
done at night because at that time the dew rendered 
the dry grass of the surrounding fields less liable to 
catch on fire and thus spread to the farmstead property 
where sometimes it did considerable damage. Even at 
night a fully fired deadening required constant 
watching; for the burning brands from the topmost 
branches of a tall tree often were carried, with only 
a slight wind, far out of the burning timber and into 
the nearby fields. When an incipient blaze would in 
this manner start, it was the watcher's business to 
hasten to the spot and beat out the blaze before it got 
out of control. 

And so I early came to look forward with more than 
ordinary interest to such nights that my father might 



The First Crop And The Last Wolk 101 

select as suitable for firing the deadenings. And, though 
still but a tot of a boy, I early prevailed upon my 
mother to allow me to go with him. In this he usually 
concurred, for he generally set me beside a tree outside 
of the deadening where I watched the spectacular sight 
with the wildest excitement and delight. I know of 
no other scene in the Swamps that so violently stirred 
my imagination. For hours at a time from my vantage 
position I would gaze upon the naked boughs of the 
skeleton trees outlined in pulsating flame against the 
starlit sky, while my unshackled fancy would run riot 
in the most impossible manner, and I would dream the 
most impossible dreams. 

So my uncle began seriously to clear away the 
forest from his Swamps' claim — an undertaking 
enthusiastically encouraged in every way by my father. 

It is remarkable how soon these forest lands can be 
brought under cultivation. Uncle Allen's farm was 
a paying proposition in a few years. He and several 
others of the Rudolph family deepened the ravine 
and his farm was now secure against failure of crops 
from a too abundant supply of water. Uncle Allen 
repeated my father's experience in agriculture, but with 
this important difference that Uncle Allen could reason- 
ably expect bumper crops at all times, while my father 
with his undrained land could only in rare dry seasons 
be successful. 

With the promise of adequate drainage, other 
claims in the Swamps were now rapidly taken up, 
each striving to obtain land nearest the outlet. In a 



102 The Swamps 

short time the claims had reached my father's clearing. 
He was now hopeful that the "Big Ditch," for such 
the undertaking had come to be called, would soon reach 
his farm. This achievement would place prosperity 
within his grasp. JSTor were his hopes long to be 
deferred, for a dozen years before I was born the Big 
Ditch became a glorious reality; a golden gulch that 
brought comfort and competence to the settlers of the 
Swamps. Along its borders the forest melted away at 
the sound of the axe and the flare of the flame, and 
flourishing farmsteads took its place. The Big Ditch 
finally extended to the border of the Big Woods, a 
section of the Swamps o^viied by some obscure federal 
oflicial whom we never saw and who, no doubt, obtained 
the grant in payment for some political favor or 
through his public office. Of this we never knew. We 
only knew that the Big Woods remained undisturbed in 
its primeval wildness long after the remaining two 
thirds of the Swamps had been transformed into profit- 
able farms. When I had reached manhood's estate 
and left the farm, the Big Woods, the scene of many 
a childhood adventure, still stood in its unperturbed 
and gloomy silence. 

So the Big Woods marked the limits of the Big 
Ditch, though sprawling streams found their way from 
the depth of the forest into the more orderly channel 
that, fashioned by human hands, carried the surplus 
waters from the fertile farms through ravines in the 
Hills to the turbulent river fifty miles beyond. 

From the Big Ditch lateral ditches were dug, and 



The First Crop And The Last Wolf 103 

into these, underground tiles led; so that, with this 
complete drainage system, the Swamps were finally 
reclaimed and settled. My father had the satisfaction 
long before he died of seeing his dream and his 
prophecy come true — that the Swami)s would finally 
become the great granary of all the surrounding country. 
Romance? I know of no epic more stimulating and 
arresting; I know of no achievement more compelling 
than the reclaiming of the Swamps by these hardy 
pioneers, the initiatory and moving spirit of whom was 
my father. 

Time passed, and with it epochal changes occurred 
in the physical features of the Swamps. Gloomy 
marshes, through the incessant swing of the resounding 
axe, now lay blinking in a flood of solar light. The 
dismal croak of the bullfrog gave way to the chirp of 
the robin and the cheery notes of the mocking bird. 
Lichen-covered oaks fell in the path of the plowshare. 
Coarse swale grass was crowded out by the waving fields 
of wheat and oats. Snake-infested bogs were drained 
and turned into fields of glossy corn. The trails of the 
wolf and bear and deer became the paths of sheep and 
cattle as they browsed through the remaining woodland 
lots. Grouse followed the growing grain, and the wild 
turkey made room for his domestic brother now 
gobbling out his notes of contentment in barnyard and 
meadow. Roads were built and vehicular travel flowed 
through the Swamps. And the Swamps, as such, 
vanished forever. 

The older children, Willis, Jonathan, and sister, 



104 The Swamps 

Luella, saw many of the spectacular features of the 
Swamps pass away before I was born. They witnessed 
the digging of the Big Ditch, the construction of the 
first corduroy road into the Swamps, and the passing 
of all the big game. They remembered the virgin forest 
where I only saw smiling fields. They saw the old 
log cabin enlarged, weather boarded, and plastered. 
The stick-and-mud chimney and earth fireplace gave 
way in their time to the wood stove and the fireplace 
of brick. They also saw the old mud-sill railroad push 
its rickety way to Hilton, a settlement of some 
importance to the east of the Swamps, which later 
became the rural metropolis of this part of the state. 

One of my greatest regrets was in not having been 
born first instead of the last but one of the family; it 
was Willis that I especially envied — envied him the 
thrilling experiences he had in those early days, even 
when he was carried to the den of the wolf, though 
being a baby at the time he remembers nothing of this 
episode. He has, however, very good reasons besides 
the scar on his left arm to remember that fight he had 
one morning with a wolf — the last wolf, it is generally 
believed — that ever ran wild in the Swamps. Willis 
never grew as tall as the other children, most of whom 
reached nearly six feet. Jack Kling always insisted it 
was wolf's milk that stunted his growth, the breakfast 
he took in that sycamore log where they found him on 
that memorable morning in the she wolf's den. This 
thrust was always given with one of Jack's most 
ingratiating smiles, though Willis never seemed to 



The First Crop And The Last Wolf 105 

wholly enjoy the joke. But what Willis lacked in 
stature he made up in wiriness, resourcefulness, and 
endurance. Otherwise, he could never have killed thc^ 
wolf as he did in a hand to hand combat. 

Wolf tracks had been seen that winter in the swale 
just back of our house — the swale that the Big Ditch 
finally drained. Several of father's sheep had been 
killed that winter, too, and it was plainly the work of a 
wolf — a lone wolf, for only single tracks had been seen. 
My father was anxious to rid the Swamps of this sole 
survivor of the predacious pack. Willis took one of 
Jack Kling's old wolf traps, greased it, and set it in the 
swale. But the wolf was wary. Tempting bait was 
spread around. The bait disappeared, but the trap 
remained unsprung. Jack Kling looked over the ground 
with Willis. Jack scratched the fringe of hair 
bordering his bald head and thought. Then they 
concealed the trap a few feet away and replaced the bait 
in its original position. This was Jack's idea of 
disarming suspicion. He argued the bait revealed to 
the wolf the location of the trap. But by concealing 
the trap a few feet away from the bait the old veteran 
might spring it unawares. In this manner he hoped 
to outwit the wolf; he reasoned the marauder would 
step on the trap outside the rim of the bait where least 
expected. "That wolf has been nipped by a trap 
before," Jack argued, "and bait is a signal for him to 
watch his tracks." 



106 The Svv^amps 

It was dark when the two of them left the swale for 
home. Willis had great faith in the old trapper's 
cunning. 

Willis was up before daylight the following morning 
and slipping out of the house unnoticed was soon on his 
way to the swale. Through the clearing he made his 
way easily enough, but as he entered the swale where 
timber still stood, objects were indistinct. He knew 
he was in the neighborhood of the trap, but fearing he 
might accidentally spring it on his own leg, he moved 
about cautiously. While thus engaged in trying to 
locate the trap he stepped on what seemed to be the 
butt of a tree. Immediately the object sprang up and 
was upon him. Now by this time Willis and most 
other dwellers in the Swamps had given up the habit of 
carrying bowie knives and hand axes. They had served 
a useful purpose in early days, but now implements of 
husbandry had taken their place. So Willis was on 
this occasion wholly without weapons. 

With the sudden impact Willis Avas born to the 
ground. After the first stunning sensation he realized 
what had happened. He had stepped on the trapped 
beast as it lay silent and crouching at Willis' approach. 
Knowing that the wolf was limited in his range by the 
length of the chain attached to the trap, Willis' first 
thought was to spring beyond the infuriated animal's 
reach. But in the darkness he could not make out on 
which side of him the trap was tethered. If the wolf 
had reached his limit in the direction in which Willis 
lay, a slight quick movement would place him beyond 



The First Crop And The Last Wolf 107 

the wolf's reach. On the contrary, the movement might 
bring him into a fairer range of the trapped beast with 
the likelihood of the wolf springing upon him. This 
would mean a bare-fisted fight with the chances favor- 
ing the wolf. Meanwhile the flaming eyes of the wolf 
were but a foot away, and Willis decided to spring. All 
of this occupied but a few seconds but seemed many 
minutes to Willis. But at the instant Willis started 
to move, the frothing jaws of the w^olf shot out and 
fastened themselves with the grip of a vise upon my 
brother's left forearm. For a moment Willis was 
stunned. The pain was excruciating. With each 
guttural growl the wolf's fangs sank deeper into the 
flesh. T^ot for a moment did the infuriated beast relax 
its hold. Willis' arm became paralyzed. He now fully 
realized the desperate situation. He was as hopelessly 
trapped as was the wolf. There was nothing to do but 
fight as best he could with his free hand. But how? 
He seized the wolf's throat ; tried to choke the frothing 
beast. But without effect. The milling of the wolf 
only tore wider the wound in Willis' arm. Blood 
flowed freely from the lacerated muscles. Here was 
a new danger — the loss of too much blood. Willis felt 
faint. He realized he must act at once. Then rallying 
he gouged and dug with his sharp finger nails at the 
wolf's flaming eyes. But this only increased the 
tortured beast's threatening growls. 

The tough film of the eyeballs refused to yield to 
Willis' fingers. He hoped if he could blind the beast 
it would relax its grip on his arm and free him from 



108 The Swamps 

his precarious position. But failing in this Willis, who 
had to some extent fortified himself against the excru- 
ciating pain, now began to cast about him for some 
other means of relief. The light of the coming dawn 
filtered in between the tree trunks and revealed objects 
on the ground. At this time "Willis noticed a hard, dry 
piece of hickory twig lying within reach. This he 
obtained with his free hand. It was about an inch in 
diameter, and with this implement Willis began a 
second attempt on the wolf's eyeballs. This time he 
was successful in puncturing the film. With a plunk 
the jelly-like substance of the eye fell upon his hand. 
This he thought would result in the wolf's relaxing its 
hold on the arm. But in this Willis was mistaken. 
The infuriated beast only clinched his jaws tighter, 
all the while giving forth terrific guttural rumblings. 
Then in his desperation Willis bored out the other eye. 
Still the vise-like grip continued. Death alone seemed 
now the only means that would bring about a relaxa- 
tion of the wolf's jaws. Kow Willis knew that the 
optic nerve led directly into the brain. If he only 
could reach this vital center through the eye socket, 
he thought he might kill the wolf. He tried to push 
the hard stick along the track of the optic nerve, but 
each time it stopped short of its goal. The bony plates 
of the socket refused to yield. Then once more he 
searched the ground for anything that might aid him 
in finishing the wolf. His eye fell upon a short block 
of wood that had been broken from a stout branch of a 
nearby tree. This he could reach. It was solid and 



The First Crop And The Last Wolf 109 

heavy enough to bo used as a hammer. An idea occurred 
to him, and he immediately put it into execution. The 
stout hickory peg still remained tightly wedged in the 
empty socket of the wolf's eye. Using the block as a 
mallet he struck the peg a sharp blow. It moved 
perceptibly towards the animal's brain. He repeated 
the blow with a like result. Blow after blow he now 
dealt the disappearing peg till at last the moaning 
wolf sank to the ground. Still the grip on Willis' arm 
remained and he was obliged to sink to his knees with 
the sagging body of the beast. One more blow he gave 
the peg which drove it flush with the outer rim of the 
eye. Then after a final quiver the wolf gave no further 
signs of life. The jaws slowly relaxed, but even then 
Willis was compelled to insert a stick between the 
teeth and pry the fangs out of the flesh of his arm. 

Willis lost no time in reaching the house where, 
while my mother bound up his arm, he related his 
adventure. In a little while Jack Kling arrived from 
his cabin where he still kept bachelor's hall, to go to 
work with my father. "So you got the old cuss, did 
you, Willis ?" Jack remarked after hearing my brother's 
thrilling escape. "Well, we'd better drag his carcass 
up to the house, and skin him, for it's the last wolf 
pelt you'll ever get in the Swamps," which proved to 
be the case, for from that time to the present no wolf 
has ever been seen in this part of the state. 



CHAPTEH X 

Clarkson's Operation And Biddie's Eggs 

To PASS from the early period of the Swamps to the 
time of memory's dawning is like closing a book of 
fairy tales to take up the prosaic perusal of authentic 
history. iN'ot that these adventures of my elders have 
no foundation in fact — on the contrary they are mainly 
records of actual happenings — but I have always 
invested the period to which they belong with an en- 
nobled robe of romance and mystery that I find almost 
entirely absent in the personally remembered days that 
follow. Yet, when in retrospect, I bridge the chasm of 
the years and roam the countryside again with Charlie 
and Albert and Tip and old Sounder, I find my heart 
beating faster as I recall each exciting episode — coon 
hunting, fighting, exploring the deep woods, clandestine 
reading of penny dreadfuls, foraging for food, camping, 
tramping, running away from school, and finally that 
dramatic moment when I decided to cast parental 
authority to the winds and order my actions as I 
personally pleased. All of these memories fraught with 
excitement, humor, and pathos have etched their impress 
deep upon my mind, and loom large to me even across 
the shadows of Time ; and as I recall them I experience 
again much of the emotions that went with them when 
the world was young and cloudless, and the sky bending 
above my path was ever tinted with the softest hues. 



112 The Swamps 

I owe much of the thrill I got out of these common- 
place happenings to my always vivid imagination. By 
the same token many of my troubles and sorrows came 
from purely imaginary sources. Did I see at night 
a stump on fire in the forest, my imagination forthwith 
transformed the points of light into burning eyes of 
some ferocious beast that was about to advance and 
devour me. On the other hand I could conjure up at 
will the most wonderful scenes and transform ordinary 
objects into priceless and rare possessions. Tip, at the 
behest of my imagination, swelled to the proportions of 
an elephant, when caparisoned in a scrap of colored 
cloth with a discarded water pail inverted howdah- 
fashion on his back, he became a member of the royal 
herd of some Oriental potentate, and for hours I 
dragged the utterly bored dog through his part in my 
improvised Durbar parade. Many a winter's day my 
mother became a royal personage — a queen or a duchess 
— and while she sat at her sewing, or pared apples or 
potatoes for the daily meal, I made my obeisance before 
her, swore my eternal fealty to her, exalted her above 
all common people, and in a score of other ways 
doubtless interfered in no small manner with the even 
pursuit of her domestic duties. 

It naturally followed that after my first visit to 
the strolling show that once drifted into Hillton I 
organized a circus of my own and tried in vain to make 
Tip jump through a paper-covered hoop. I captured 
for this enterprise my mother's domestic fowls, drew 
pigs and lambs into the arena, and ended up with a 



Clarkson's Operation And Biddle's Eggs 113 

collapse of the grandstand In which calamity I injured 
two pigs and one lamb and killed three of my mother's 
best chickens. That night my father issued a stem 
edict against holding any more circuses upon his royal 
domain. 

And so through the alchemy of my imagination I 
was continually metamorphosing this work-a-day world, 
through which I adventured in my early childhood 
days, into a wonderland of magic, a supernal and 
arresting realm. Xor did these enchanted manifesta- 
tions always cease with the coming of sleep, for in my 
dreams, especially if my always ravenous appetite got 
the better of my discretion, I continued to deal with 
monsters and battle with giants that towered to the sky. 

In looking back into the distant past, I have 
frequently followed the path of memory to its last 
conscious signpost, the remotest incident that I could 
recall. In this earliest episode my baby brother, 
Clarkson, played the leading part. As my mother 
recalls the incident, he was then not more than two 
months old ; and since I was not quite three years older 
than my brother, my age could not have exceeded much 
more than that difference. I have seen accounts that 
set forth claims of certain people who have remembered 
happenings and things at a much earlier age; but try 
as I would, all beyond this occurrence is absolutely 
blank. 

It seems some kind of an abscess had developed 
under Clarkson's scalp, and it became necessary to lance 
it. For this operation Doctor B. D. Grayson, the old 



114 . The Swamps 

country doctor, was called in — Doctor "B. D." we 
always dubbed him for short. Upon his arrival I was 
invited to play outside in the yard, and while I 
reluctantly obeyed I played but little, for I saw that 
something out of the ordinary was about to occur. A 
kettle of hot water was brought into the front room. 
A piece of white muslin was torn into strips and hung 
over the back of one of the chairs. The wash basin 
was placed on the floor while Doctor B. D. unpacked 
his saddle-bags which he always carried slung across 
his horse's back. A peculiar smell of drugs came to 
me through the half-open door, all of which wrought 
me up tremendously and my curiosity and interest knew 
no bounds. To play with any enthusiasm was out of 
the question, and I hung as closely as I could without 
attracting attention about the partly opened door. 

Then my mother brought Clarkson from the back 
room and placed him across her lap, his head hanging 
over the empty basin on the floor. Doctor B. D. now 
drew a chair to the one in which my mother sat and 
disposed his instruments and bandages about the top 
of a little table alongside. My eyes fairly bulged out 
of their sockets at these mysterious preparations, and, 
since I was now in little danger of being discovered, 
I drew nearer to the opening. Taking a shiny knife 
from his case the Doctor plunged it into my brother's 
head. Clarkson uttered a piercing scream as a stream 
of blood spurted out and fell into the basin below. I 
closed my eyes and clutched at the door. My brain 
swam and I grew dizzy. Still this revolting sight 



Clakksox's Operation And Biddie's Egos 115 

fascinated me, and I braced myself as I again opened 
my eyes. There lay my baby brother screaming in my 
mother^s lap, while the Doctor was bathing the wound 
with hot water. It was a most tragic sight, and I 
watched and watched till they kad bound up my 
brother's head and taken him to the back room. Then 
Doctor B. D., after collecting his belongings and replac- 
ing them in his saddle-bags, made for the door. I was 
riveted to the spot and had to make an effort to move. 
But the fear of being discovered in my eavesdropping 
urged me to action and I disappeared behind the house 
just as the Doctor made his way through the door. 
When he had mounted his sorrel nag and had 
disappeared down the muddy road I ventured within. 
My mother must have noticed my distraught expression, 
for after she had composed Clarkson as best she could, 
she turned her attention to me. "Why Sheridan, boy, 
what's the matter?" I did not answer. And then she 
tried to explain that it was for Clarkson's good, that he 
was sick and now would get well. But I still remained 
silent. I did not react sympathetically to her explana- 
tion; I was puzzled, and the horrible sight of the two 
of them mutilating my little brother dominated my 
brain. My mother took me to her arms and pressed 
me to her bosom, but I drew away and slid down from 
her lap. When she left the room, I tip-toed back to 
where my little brother lay. Blood had soaked through 
the bandages and formed red spots. I reached out my 
hand and touched them. They were warm and sticky. 
It gave me a shiver. Then I slipped out of the house. 



116 The Swamps 

Tip joined me and I tried to play, but with little 
success. At intervals I would stop playing and 
rehearse in my mind the tragic scene. All that night 
I dreamed of giants with flashing knives slashing at 
Clarkson's head. Once in my nightmare my mother 
took me up and placed me in bed with her. Here I 
slept till morning. 

In a short time Clarkson recovered, and after a while 
the incident was sufficiently forgotten to enable me to 
go on with my daily joys. But from that time till I 
was far along in my teens I could never see Doctor 
Grayson without feeling an uncomfortable sensation 
that made me ill at ease in his presence. 

For several years succeeding Clarkson's operation 
I can recall no outstanding incident, though many 
things — places and people — were very clearly established 
in my mind at the time this next episode occurred. I 
was probably four or five years old though of this I 
am not certain; my mother could not definitely 
remember my age at the time. "You were a very little 
boy," she would say in referring to the exploit, "too 
little, in fact, to take your escapade as seriously as you 
did." The incident was associated in my mother's 
mind with the old mudsill railroad that ran to Hillton 
and it was the same summer the flat rails were taken 
up and replaced by a more modern type. A station 
had been located on this branch road at a point nearest 
our farm. It was called Rushville after old man 
Rush who lived nearby, though we generally referred 
to this stop as merely, "The Station." The Station 



Clarkson's Operation And Riddle's Eggs 117 

building served as a general store, ticket office, post 
office, freight depot, and general loafing place for the 
whole neighborhood. It was officially in charge of 
Mr. Hallrand, he of the bushy red beard and rotund 
stomach. I often went with my father to the station, 
and on one of my recent visits while Mr. Hallrand was 
weighing out my father's sugar and coffee I discovered 
a brightly bound little picture book lying on the counter. 
Surreptitiously I took a peep inside. It disclosed 
marvelous pictures of boys and girls, of queens and 
kings, of animals and birds, of flowers and fields. It 
was a peep into wonderland, and my eyes bulged with 
excitement and my heart beat a lively tattoo as I 
imagined myself the owner of such a treasure. I spoke 
to no one about my discovery; it was too sacred for the 
profanation of words. Then, too, I feared ridicule; 
I feared if I openly expressed a desire for it someone 
would laugh at me. But in my inmost heart I ardently 
desired that book ; above all else I coveted it. I thought 
of it all the way home, as I rode behind father on old 
Fanny's fat butter back — old Fan on whose ample back 
my father used to set me when I could scarcely toddle 
about. Old Fan, herself, on these occasions in coming 
home from work in the field seemed to realize her 
responsibility, and though anxious to reach the stable 
and feed after a hard day's Avork, she always took ample 
time to carefully pick her way over uneven ground 
lest she should jar me off. 

By the time we reached home I had determined to 
obtain that book by foul means or fair. I felt that 



118 The Swamps 

until I had that treasure safely within my keeping, life 
would scarcely be worth living. For days I pondered 
ways and means of obtaining possession of it. Then 
one day my opportunity came though brought about, 
as I afterward believed, by the Evil One, himself. 

It was one of those seductive summer days when 
conscience, especially in the very young, is easily lulled 
to sleep. I was making my way through the tall grass 
back of the barn looking for nothing in particular, 
but just following the urge within me for some sort of 
adventure, when lo ! and behold, old Biddie fluttered 
out from the thick grass from off her well concealed 
nest. I parted the heavy herbage and stooped down 
over thirteen pure white eggs. Now Biddie had long 
since proved the despair of my mother. She was a 
willful creature and stubbornly refused to submit to 
domesticity. She lived before her time. She was a 
modernist, and made self-expression her rule of action. 
She scorned the homemade nests my mother prepared 
for her and laid her eggs in the great open spaces far 
flung and usually undiscovered. Because of this habit 
Biddie proved an unprofitable member of the flock, and 
my mother had already marked her for the pot. 

Now I knew Biddie's reputation. I knew my 
mother ignored her in any egg-production consideration. 
These eggs would never be missed; thirteen of them — 
an unlucky number — for in each egg there lurked an 
embryo tempter. And these little tempters whispered 
seductively in my ears, "See what your good fairy has 
brought you, the price of that picture book at Mr. 



Clakkson's Operation And Biddies Eggs 119 

Hallraiid's store." Then my drowsy conscience mildly 
remonstrated, "But they are not mine; they belong to 
my mother — to buy clothes and groceries for me?" 
And then all thirteen little tempters said in unison and 
in a louder and more persuasive voice, "But your 
mother has long since failed to count on getting any 
eggs from Biddie, she will not miss them; your mother 
and Biddie are not friendly, she would scarcely accept 
her eggs even if she found them." Then I said, "But 
how can I get them to the store?" "As good as done," 
said the tempters, "Old Fan is in the stable just wearing 
her heart out for want of exercise; and there is a little 
basket in the barn, too; it is early; take what the gods 
provide — the basket, Fanny and bring back the book — 
all in time for supper." 

In another moment I had placed the stolen eggs in 
the basket and was soon galloping away for the store 
all unobserved by my mother. 

"Heigh ho!" exclaimed Mr. Ilallrand as he saw 
Fan and me approaching. "What brings you two 
from the Swamp; is anything wrong?" 

I slid off old Fan to the wooden platform that had 
been constructed alongside the railroad. For a moment 
I was at a loss to explain my presence. 1 had not 
thought of this meeting with Mr. Hallraiid and the 
interest my visit, alone, to the store might arouse. I 
had stolen the eggs and now I proceeded to speed my 
downward course to perdition by smashing another 
commandment; I lied to him. I told liiin my mother 
sent me for the book. In the meantime, I had made my 



120 The Swamps 

way to the store and entered. I was soon beside the 
counter and lovingly fondling the coveted book. I 
elaborated on my latest crime, the lie. I told Mr. 
Hallrand my mother was teaching me to read and had 
sent these eggs to pay for the book. I was lying now 
glibly; I would have violated the entire decalogue 
rather than lose the prized possession now that it was 
actually within my grasp. I must have told a plausible 
story, for Mr. Hallrand without further question 
proceeded to count the eggs while I unbuttoned my 
shirt waist and caressingly placed my treasure near my 
heart. Eggs were then ten cents a dozen, just the price 
of the book. There were thirteen eggs. What was 
to be done with the fraction of a cent still due me? 

"How much is that candy a stick — the striped candy 
in the glass jar behind you?" 

It was a cent a stick and Mr. Hallrand balanced 
my account by giving me about three-fourths of a stick. 

Mr. Hallrand helped me to climb on old Fanny, 
and we were soon galloping along the dusty road on our 
return journey home. 

And now I began to realize the enormity of my 
crime. The book was mine, but what of my soul ? We 
had been taught an austere religion that early sank deep 
into our natures. The religion was as hard and as 
inexorable as were our lives. It was an unforgiving 
religion. Even thus early in my life I conceived in 
a way the terrors of hell, of hellfire and brimstoTie, and 
I believed this eternal and awful punishment would 



Clarkson's Operatiox x\nd Biddie's Egos 121 

surely be visited upon the unrepentant sinner. I began 
to grow more and more terrified as I drew near liome. 

It was dusk when old Fan brought me up at the 
barnyard gate. My mother had done the "chores" for 
father had gone to the mill and we did not expect his 
return till after dark. My mother was naturally 
anxious, especially as Tip, the faithful collie, was home. 
When Tip was with me she was not especially concerned, 
for Tip was ever zealous of my care. So I found her 
waiting for me, waiting to pass awful judgment on my 
sin. But instead of utterly destroying me, she lifted me 
tenderly from old Fan's fat back. I was sore and tired 
from the long ride — aching in every muscle — aching at 
heart — sick at soul, conscious of my terrible sin. 

"Sheridan, child, where have you been?" in the 
gentlest tones ; not wrathful, not minatory, but in a voice 
that might have been wafted from the angels. It was 
like balm to my lacerated heart. I seemed to collapse 
utterly under the influence of this unexpected gentleness. 

Then the floodgates were opened. In heart- 
breaking sobs I told the story of my appalling sin. 
Old Fan now bridle-free meandered away to the nearby 
pasture. The chickens gossiped and quarreled them- 
selves to sleep, the fireflies arose above the dew-moistoned 
grass in a swaying, starry web, and the frogs in the 
pond back of the orchard croaked not unmusically 
their evensong. Still I lay sobbing in my mother's 
arms as she sat in the rocking chair beside the door 
and soothed me, reassured me. Finally I fell asleep 



122 The Swamps 

to awaken the next morning with my sin somehow 
washed away. It was my first great sin; and in the 
innocence of childhood, I vowed and alas ! believed, 
it would he my last. 



CHAPTER XI 
The Big Ditch 

The first vehicular road constructed in tlie Swamps 
was of the corduroy type. It led from the southern 
hills past my father's farm to the settled section at the 
north. These roads bore little likeness to the concrete 
highways of the present time. But the marshy Swamps 
would admit of no other kind. Vehicles, at certain 
seasons, would become hopelessly mired in roads built 
of unsupported muck. It became necessary to build 
corduroy roads, as objectionable as they were, in order 
to make it possible for wagons to enter the Swamps. 

Timber, the material used in building corduroy 
roads, was abundant and conveniently at hand. First, 
trees of suitable size were felled and cut into lengths 
corresponding to the width of the road. These were 
split in twain and then, with the round side down, firmly 
imbedded in the muck. The edges of these logs, hewn 
to a fairly straight line, were placed together, thus 
forming a comparatively flat surface over which the 
horses drew the vehicles. 

But even when completed the road was far from 
ideal. It was rattle and chuck all the way; for some 
of the logs would gradually sag, one deeper than 
another, till the wheels of the vehicle would first drop 
down into a hole to be hoisted the next instant over a 
log that had remained a foot above its fellows. Then, 
too, the logs would sometimes separate till a horse's foot 



124 The Swamps 

could pass between them. This resulted in great danger 
of breaking the animal's leg, a misfortune that 
happened more than once to horses of these early times. 
Furthermore, the roads required constant attention ; the 
spaces had to be closed up; the logs required constant 
tamping to keep them approximately level, and 
occasionally they had to be replaced with new ones. 

But with the advent of ample drainage "dirt" roads 
took the place of the old corduroy makeshifts. This 
was a decided step forward, though these roads were not 
an unmixed blessing, for grade them as carefully as we 
could, there came times after long rains, or during the 
"spewing" periods of winter when they became well nigh 
impassable. 

Then came pikes. These were an expensive type of 
road to build; for rock, the foundation material, was 
not to be found in the Swamps, and had to be drawn 
from the hills several miles away. Today the old pike 
lies buried under tons of concrete over which the motor 
tourist, all oblivious of the ghosts of pioneer days that 
on certain nights still stalk abroad, speeds on through 
fields of waving grain, past pretentious farmsteads to 
his appointed destination. 

But the romance and adventure of my childhood 
days lay not so much along these roads as it did in the 
Big Ditch which I regarded as the most wonderful 
achievement of man's endeavor. It proved a never 
failing challenge to my childish imagination, and 
always became a dominant factor in my most spectacular 
flights of fancy. Of this fascinating channel I never 



The Big Ditch 125 

tired and during that age when we are too young to be 
useful but old enough to become a bother around the 
house, my mother solved the problem of my riddance on 
all but rainy days by sending me to explore the Big 
Ditch that ran but a few hundred yards back of our 
home. Here with Tip, as my bodyguard, she felt I 
would be safe from harm, and happy. Moreover, she 
could reckon on my being out of her way for the entire 
morning or afternoon. 

Even as young as I was I often wondered about the 
Big Ditch ; whence it came and whither it flowed ; what 
sights and scenes it witnessed in its mysterious course; 
what manner of vegetation grew on its banks in that 
faraway country where it reached the sea ; what kind of 
men and women and children and birds and beasts 
surrounded its headwaters or knew its widened expanse 
as it drifted to the south. 

ISiow the Big Ditch, as later years disclosed, followed 
a very tame course to the river where without any ado 
it was soon swallowed up by the larger stream; but at 
that time the Big Ditch was the embodiment of all that 
was strange, romantic, and mystic. 

Except in flood time the Big Ditch was a grass 
gro^vn canyon with the bottom clay-baked and cracked 
by the summer sun into various sharply defined but 
irregular blocks of hardened silt. Here between sides 
overgrown with coarse herbage I would walk and walk, 
and wonder and wonder. It was a tremendous adven- 
ture, for the clayey sides o'er-topped my head and it 
was little short of a trip into the wilds of darkest Africa 



126 The Swamps 

as I wandered with nerves aquiver over the dry bottom 
of the Big Ditch. There were garter snakes to be 
encountered and innumerable field mice to be 
dispatched, not to mention an occasional muskrat who 
burrowed forth from a sluggish pool that had withstood 
the drying rays of the summer sun and that still 
afforded comfort to the lonely rodent against the coming 
autumn rains. There were clumps of wild roses, too, 
depending from the bank above, that draped, in places, 
the wounds of the spring wash now sun parched and 
ugly in its midsummer desiccation. 

But best of all there was the pool of comparatively 
clear water just where the Big Ditch passed under the 
water gate that divided our farm from that owned by 
Eli Charleston. Here the swirl of the current in flood 
time had burrowed out a deep hole that held water in 
some amount all through the summer drought. This 
water hole was always an outstanding objective in my 
adventures through the Big Ditch; for just as like as 
not I would find in this fascinating pool a dozen, more 
or less, of real fish — tiny minnows to be sure — that had 
found their way from some source into the Big Ditch. 
As the water receded these minnows gravitated, as is 
their nature, to the isolated puddles that, as the summer 
advanced, mostly dried up, which worked a great hard- 
ship to the minnows. The pool under the Watergate, 
however, held; only once, the summer of the great 
drought, did the unfortunate minnows wiggle them- 
selves first through thin mud and then thicker till one 



The Big Ditch 127 

day I found their stiff little bodies wrapped in the dry 
but majestic cerements of death. 

But aside from this tragic summer I always found 
sufficient water in this particular hole to provide a 
fairly roomy aquarium for the minnows. And what 
thrills I experienced when craning my neck under the 
water gate I gazed into the depths of the pool — deep, 
it seemed to me, though in reality very shallow — and 
discovered swimming gaily about the little pocket of 
water real live fish ! Indeed, I knew but little about 
fish in that inland country of prairie-like levelness 
where the Big Ditch was the only stream, as paltry as 
it was, within my ken. Therefore, these few undersized 
minnows were unduly exaggerated and glorified in my 
childish imagination. For hours at a time I would lie 
on the hard, uneven surface of the bottom of the Big 
Ditch and as I watched, I dreamed wonderful dreams 
about these marvelous minnows — no longer minnows 
in my now excited brain — but whales, porpoises, sword 
fish and sharks with which I battled valiantly though 
not always triumphantly; for I lost many a leg and 
scores of fingers and toes in these piscatorial encounters. 
Ships, too, I sailed over this pool now metamorphosed 
into a tempestuous sea — pirate ships, ships of the line, 
battleships and cruisers, and sailing boats, lifeboats 
and all manner of craft which I in turn manned and 
commanded, singly and in fleet formation, but always 
bent on adventure and always with a spectacular 
denouement. 



128 The Swamps 

The pool under the water gate was ever a source 
of childish imagery and even in those tender years I 
was always the hero or the victim; I was the central 
figure of every adventure on land — the bottom of the 
ditch — or on sea — the pool under the water gate. 

Beyond the water gate pool the Big Ditch began to 
leave civilization and I never had the courage or time, 
for the sinking sun generally found me no farther in 
my explorations than the line fence, to proceed much 
farther towards the Big Woods, out of which, I was told 
by my mother, the Big Ditch flowed. Only once did I 
make bold to crawl under the water gate and proceed 
upstream along the Big Ditch. N'ow the Big Ditch, 
that section occupied in passing through the lower part 
of my father's farm, was familiar ground to me. It 
was the most outstanding variation in the flat monotony 
of the whole farm ; it stimulated dreams and lent itself 
to adventure, and I was almost a daily visitor in the 
grasshopper days of summer to its winding course. But 
beyond — ah, that was strange and thrilling territory! 
On the occasion of my temerity of which I speak I took 
Tip along with me. Tip generally accompanied me in 
my excursions along the Big Ditch, for here he found 
surcease from fighting his fleas in tormenting the bigger 
game of mice, and on occasions, an over-confident 
muskrat. He even evinced some interest in the 
minnows, sometimes dipping his paw in the pool in an 
attempt to corral the elusive fish — a practice I generally 
discouraged, for he stirred up the muddy water and 
with it my dreams became accordingly turbulent. So 



The Big Ditch 120 

I directed his attention to mice tunnels in which he 
usually took more delight and left me to the roily sea. 

I remember the day of our tragic adventure as of 
yesterday. It was late in August. I had crawled 
under the water gate, and Tip was at my heels. A 
rabbit scurried from among the bushes that now lined 
the bank, for the Big Ditch after leaving our farm 
debouched alongside a thicket, and Tip rushed into the 
brush in pursuit of his game. Stirred by the excitement 
of the chase I climbed up the side of the ditch and 
followed. It was about the middle of the afternoon, 
biit I took no heed of the time; the chase was too 
absorbing. "Yap, yap, yippy yap," went Tip through 
the brush, and I strained every muscle in my endeavor 
to keep up with him. But try as I would his yaps grew 
gradually fainter. Still I followed in the direction of 
the last sound. Then I could hear no more and I 
stopped and looked about me. For the first time since 
leaving the Big Ditch I took stock of my surroundings. 
The coppice had given way to a forest, and stately oaks 
now surrounded me. We had evidently followed the 
course of the stream, for I seemed to recognize the Big 
Woods, that mysterious and extensive forest that gave 
birth to the Big Ditch. "I'll find the Big Ditch," I told 
myself confidently; and then I'll follow down stream 
and so to my father's farm. I little doubted my ability 
to find readily the Big Ditch, and then I proceeded 
leisurely in the direction, as I took it, of its location. 
By the position of the shadows, I reckoned the sun was 
still well above the horizon which left me plenty of time 



130 The Swamps 

to find the Big Ditch and get out of the Big Woods 
before darkness fell. 

But as I proceeded farther and farther I saw no 
signs of the Big Ditch. Then, too, I presently made 
the disconcerting discovery that the sun was lower down 
the horizon than at first I thought, for now the shadows 
beneath the dense foliage were apparently growing 
darker. So I pressed on a bit hurriedly, and to be 
perfectly frank, with an uncomfortable feeling about 
my heart that closely resembled fear — a feeling that 
soon was on the borderland of the realm of terror. 

Ah! at last the Big Ditch! My fears abated. I 
even whistled as I examined the sprawling channel that 
to my mind was the source of the Big Ditch, a channel 
not directed by the hand of man, but a wild channel 
that followed the course of least resistance through the 
Big Woods; but to my boyish intelligence, it surely 
would lead me to the now much coveted and more con- 
ventionalized course of the Big Ditch of the farm lands. 

So I began following this much bifurcated, grass- 
hummocked and noAV dry channel that I hoped would 
soon lead me to the orderly sides and smoother bottom 
of the way home. N'ow at this early age I was not so 
well versed in the ways of nature as I became later, 
else I would not have made the mistake I did ; for had 
I examined carefully the inclination of the battered- 
down grass and drift of the silt in the bottom of the 
water course I could have determined with reasonable 
certainty which way the water in the flood season had 
flowed. Instead of which I started in the direction that 



The Big Ditch 131 

seemed to me to be down stream, but wbich unbappily 
proved to be just the opposite. TvTow I knew from the 
time I spent in reaching the point where I first realized 
I was in the Big Woods that I could not be far into the 
timberland, and with this in mind I expected 
momentarily to find myself again in the open. My 
first intimation that I was doomed to disappointment 
was a growing conviction that the channel I was 
following was becoming smaller and more ill defined. 
This was at first disconcerting, for I now suspected I 
was traveling upstream and was consequently going 
deeper and deeper into the now fast darkling woods. 
With a final realization that I was lost, lost in the 
great mysterious woods with prowling wolves and wild 
dogs, and wilder cats, not to mention panthers and 
bears, I was suddenly seized with a numbing terror. 
Of course, I know now that since early days no such 
ferocious animals, with the possible exception of a few 
wild cats, inhabited the Big Woods; but it was 
considered prudent by our elders to give wide credence 
to these tales in order to keep the younger children from 
essaying this mysterious realm with the possibility of 
becoming lost — an experience that fell to the lot of 
others besides myself. That I was now lost admitted 
of no doubt. True, I doubled on my course and 
stumbled down stream as fast as my tired legs could 
carry me, but darkness now fell, it seemed to me, with 
unusual swiftness, and I could no longer make out the 
course of the stream. But blindly I stumbled on, any- 
where, any way, for now I was terrified to the verge of 



132 The Swamps 

frenzy. I fell over rotten logs; I plunged into briar 
bushes; I scratched my hands and face; and my bare 
feet, though hardened and innocent of boots from early 
spring, began to smart from nettles and snags. I called 
for Tip but without result. Could I curl up against 
Tip's shaggy side, I felt I could with some degree of 
comfort wait for the morning light. But this was 
denied, the companionship of my pal and my protector. 
Tip's voice had long since died away far in the depth of 
the forest. Then I thought of my mother and how she 
would worry, of the warm supper awaiting me, and 
the snug trundle-bed. When I thought of the wolves 
and the wild dogs, my knees trembled; my feet refused 
to move. Frightened at the sound of my own voice, 
I ceased to call for Tip. Burning eyes seemed to be 
peering at me through the dense gloom. Sepulchral 
voices seemed to surround me; mysterious and ominous 
sounds fell from the lofty branches of the hoary oaks. 
I moved with great effort a few steps at a time and 
then listened. Ghosts were abroad, goblins, gnomes 
and giants. I started at every creaking branch, 
at every sound of the night insects. My straining ears 
were assailed with dreadful noises, blood curdling and 
terrible. And then in my effort to move I stumbled 
and fell, fell into a soft bed of moss. A great oak 
spread out its roots about me. I felt safer in the 
embrace of this giant monarch of the forest, and I 
remained under its protection where I fell. For awhile 
I peered about me into the Cimmerian darkness. The 
gloom oppressed me, and my eyes grew heavy with the 



The Big Ditch 133 

blackness. A dense gloom seemed to envelope my senses. 
Fairies, black wild boars and red, flaming bulls peopled 
my brain in a sort of unearthly starry web that was fast 
enveloping me ***** *^ 

I awoke with a great start. One of the demons of 
my terrified sleep was upon me. He was licking my 
face and his great yellow eyes were piercing me to the 
heart. I could not scream, for the incessant din of this 
monster stunned my ears and caused my tongue to 
cleave to the roof of my mouth. And then as a ray 
from the rising sun filtered in to me through the dense 
oak boughs the monster over me began to shrink to the 
proportions, the familiar proportions, of a dog, of Tip 
who had bathed me with saliva and who now was wild 
with joy as he kept up his incessant barking. I 
attempted to hug him, to clasp him to my bounding 
heart, but Tip was all aquiver and excited beyond 
measure. "Hark, Tip, was that a hello? Yes, and 
now another and nearer." And Tip answered every 
hello with a resounding yap. 

That morning there was joy in all the countryside, 
and my mother red-eyed and weeping bore me trium- 
phantly to the waiting wagon. All night long they had 
searched the Big Woods — Jack, Dink and other near 
neighbors. The women folks waited with my mother 
by the edge of the forest. Flares were lighted, and 
had it not been for the danger of setting fire to the 
timberland, bonfires would have been built. As it was 
they were started only in the road and safe away from 
the dry grass. 



134 The Swamps 

The stragglers from the searching party at length 
emerged from the forest, and foot sore, stiff and 
contented I was jolted along the rough country road 
past the home of Eli Charleston while Tip bounded 
and barked the whole length of the journey. My mother 
lost no time in preparing us all a warm breakfast, and 
then she placed me on the sofa in the sitting-room and 
covered me up with the new log-cabin quilt where I 
slept away in peace and quiet the terrors of the night. 



CHAPTEE XII 
McKiM, The Bandit 

My memory plays me many a curious prank. Wliy 
is it that I recall no very definite picture of my brother, 
Clarkson, with whom I must have daily played, and 
whose age was scarcely three years less than my own, 
while I remember as of yesterday, the visit to the 
Swamps of McKim, the bandit? Psychologists tell us 
nothing is ever forgotten, that the record of every 
conscious moment is there, covered up, maybe, or tucked 
away in some out-of-the-way corner of the mind to be 
revealed unexpectedly sometimes under the proper 
stimulus which may take the form of a long-forgotten 
odor, a familiar word or phrase, or a few notes of an 
oldtime tune. My brother's doings fell into the prosaic 
record of the day, but the picture of McKim stands out 
in bold type still clearly legible above the fog and mists 
of the intervening years. 

How much of the story of McKim I actually 
remember and how much is hearsay 1 cannot at this 
distance positively state. But that I do clearly recall 
certain incidents connected with that period of excite- 
ment in the Swamps scarcely admits of a doubt. For 
example I remember how I used to look at Long Tom 
that was now always kept primed and loaded and placed 
in a convenient position near the door; and the extra 
precautions my father took in doubly barring the doors 
of the stable and other outhouses; the discomfort of my 



136 The Swamps 

mother and the other women of the neighborhood during 
those months that McKim found asylum in the Swamps 
and foraged from the farmers for a living. I also 
remember the drastic curtailment of my own freedom in 
roaming the woods and fields. My mother now would 
scarcely permit me to be out of her sight, and both Tip 
and myself were kept as a sort of bodyguard for 
household services. The folks of the countryside kept 
more to their cabins; the men arranged their work so 
they could be nearer their families, and after dark the 
roads were almost deserted. 

McKim made his appearance in the neighborhood 
with dramatic suddenness. Mr. Hallrand was the first 
man to see him. The morning train, after leaving the 
station, had stopped at the water tank a few hundred 
feet above to take on the customary supply of water. 
As usual it was a mixed train, on this occasion consisting 
of one combination baggage and coach, two flat cars and 
a box car. The arrangement on this particular 
occasion had the box car in the rear. While the train 
was still standing at the water tank Mr. Hallrand 
walked to the upper end of the platform to pick up the 
mail bag. This brought him opposite the rear end of 
the train, and alongside the box car. Just as he stooped 
to pick up the bag he heard the grating of the door 
of the box car as it was pushed along the iron grooves 
that held it in place. As he looked up, a small wiry, 
sandy-haired man standing in the doorway of the car 
met his gaze. At once his western dress attracted Mr. 
Hallrand's attention. The butts of two pistols projected 



McKiM, The Baxdit 137 

from tlie man's hip pockets. The stranger noticed Mr. 
Hallrand's look of surprise. He was the first to speak. 

"Where does this train go to?" he asked. 

Mr. Hallrand told him it went to Hillton, the end 
of the line. Mr. Hallrand was still surprised. He was 
ill at ease in the presence of the apparition. Was he 
cowboy or bandit? Surely he hailed from no section 
with which Mr. Hallrand was familiar. There was a 
moment of silence. 

"Hillton, the end of the line?" the stranger presently 
repeated. 

"Yes, Hillton, the end of the line," Mr. Hallrand 
replied. 

Then after another pause the passenger queried, 
"How's the country round here — pretty well settled?" 

"Yes, to the south," Mr. Hallrand answered, "but 
not in this direction," waving his hand to the north, 
"in the direction of the Swamps." 

The Westerner became at once all attention. "The 
Swamps?" he replied, "how far away?" 

"Only a few miles," Mr. Hallrand replied. Then 
added, "Why?" 

"Oh, nothing," replied the stranger in a noncom- 
mittal manner. Then he asked, "Timbered?" 

"Yes," said Mr. Hallrand, "parts of it. There's a 
Big Woods about three miles square that hasn't yet 
been nicked by an axe." Then Mr. Hallrand asked, 
"Interested in lumber?" 

"1^0, not exactly, just timber" the newcomer replied. 
Then still deep in thought he added, "Can a feller 



138 The Swamps 

winter in the Big Woods, any place he can get some- 
thing to eat ?" 

"Farmers live all around the border — 'spose they 
might stake you to grub, that is, if youVe got the 
price," Mr. Hallrand answered. 

"I'm not exactly broke," the westerner replied. 
Then placing his hands on the pistol butts he added 
with a knowing smile, "And I got a couple of good 
friends here, too." 

This ended the conversation. The spout of the 
water tank was lifted, the engine gave a toot, the box car 
lurched forward and the picturesque passenger sprang 
to the ground. With a quick, nervous stride he struck 
out along the road to the north. 

Mr. Hallrand watched him disappear around the 
bend in the road. Then he wrinkled his brow and 
stroked his bushy beard. "I don't like the looks of 
that man," he mumbled to himself. "If he ain't a 
bandit them pictures in the paper are off." Slowly he 
moved down the platform dragging the mail bag after 
him. 

Mr. Hallrand had a brother in the West, in the 
section of the West where McKim had been operating. 
Occasionally this brother sent Mr. Hallrand a copy of 
the Weekly I^ews ; especially if it contained an account 
of McKim's activities. In this very mail bag he was 
dragging to the post office, formed by partitioning off 
one corner of the store, was a newspaper addressed to 
the postmaster. After hurriedly distributing the 
handful of mail and sticking each piece in its owner's 



McKiM, The Baxdit 139 

box, Mr. Hallrand tore off the wrapper of the paper 
addressed to him. It was from his brother out West 
and was the usual four-page western weekly. From 
the front page the half-smiling, calculating face of the 
box car passenger looked up at him. There was no 
doubt about the arrival; it was McKim. The caption 
carried the information that the bandit was on his way 
East hotly pursued by a sheriff's posse. 

About seven o'clock the nightly concourse of loafers 
assembled. The news had spread like wildfire. Dan 
Hunt had met McKim on the road and had talked with 
him. This was strange and was the object of comment. 
Why had Dan talked with the bandit? Was there 
something back of this meeting ? Had it been arranged 
previously between them ? After all no one knew much 
about Dan Hunt. He always seemed out of his element 
with the trash of the Swamps. Xow it appeared he 
was on familiar terms with this bandit. Was it a mere 
coincidence? Or had they known each other before. 
These were questions excitedly discussed by the loafers. 

Mr. Hallrand showed them the paper. Those who 
could read conned the account breathlessly. There was 
every shade of opinion expressed. Some predicted that 
a killing was imminent. Life had suddenly become 
cheap in the Swamps. 

Then the crowd mysteriously melted away — even 
before it was dark. Everyone seemed bent on making 
his cabin early. All save Dan Hunt, silent Dan the 
inscrutable, Dan the shindig fiddler, Dan the lone 



140 The Swamps 

liunter and recluse. Dan said little but remained at 
the store as usual till well after dark. 

Everybody in the Swamps now knew of McKim. 
There was little sleep that night. For that reason 
everybody within range knew there was a light in Dan 
Hunt's cabin all night. And Dan had a visitor. At 
least old Doctor B. D. said when he passed the cabin 
about three in the morning coming home from a baby 
case he saw two men stealthily pass out of the door. 

The next day the morning train that makes 
connection in the city with the night express from the 
West stopped as usual at Rushville, and from this train 
four men alighted. This in itself was nothing out of 
the ordinary. Hog dealers, hay merchants, book agents 
and lightning rod peddlers often alighted from this 
train after working the territory below. But these four 
men were different. To begin with they were big 
brawny sun-tanned men. Their clothes stamped them 
as plainsmen. Their hats were broad brimmed and 
modelled after the sombrero pattern. They all showed 
a bulging imprint on their hips, and the shape of the 
object outlined was strangely like that of a revolver. 
One man accidentally brushed the lapel of his coat 
aside, and a big nickel star was pinned to his breast. 
There was no doubt now as to their identity and 
mission. They were sheriffs from the West in search 
of McKim. 

Dan Hunt was early at the station. This was 
unusual. Dan seldom met the morning train. He was 
usually in the woods at this time with his rifle. But 



McKiM, The Bandit 141 

Dan remained only a moment. After securing a good 
look at the strangers he made off — not in the direction 
of his cabin but down the railroad. Mr. Hallrand 
noted this and wondered why? This was a roundabout 
way of reaching the Big Woods. 

The strangers had much talk with Mr. Hallrand. 
The spokesman of the posse asked him many questions 
about the blind baggage passenger of the day before. 
He inquired about the lay of the land roundabout the 
Swamps and the surrounding territory. Mr. Hallrand 
told him all he knew. After a moment Mr. Hallrand 
asked, "Do you suspect the man was McKim, the 
bandit?" 

"Yes," said the sheriff, "there isn't a doubt about 
it. We traced him in the city to the train due here 
yesterday afternoon, but after it was too late to follow 
him. This was the first train we could get out of the 
city." Then the sheriff made the disconcerting state- 
ment that McKim had become particularly vicious 
recently and killings to his credit had mounted rapidly. 
"That's why we are determined to get him." But 
seeing the look of dismay that came to Mr. Hallrand's 
face he added by way of comfort — "But McKim never 
kills just for the killing's sake." Then after a pause, 
"ISTo, I don't think he will harm any of you here, that 
is, if you don't cross him." Then the sheriffs started 
for the Swamps. 

After reaching the low-lying land of the Swamps 
the four separated and in fanshape formation made 
in the direction of the Big Woods. The spokesman, 



142 The Swamps 

who seemed to be in command of the posse, took the 
road that led past our house. My father had just come 
in from his work for the noondaj^ meal when the 
sheriff headed in our direction reached our front gate. 
The two at once engaged in conversation. They talked 
long and earnestly under the pair of bur oaks that 
stood in front of the house. And then, it being a 
hard and fast custom in those days to always invite 
the wayfarer who chanced to be present at meal time 
to take pot luck with the family, they both came in 
for dinner. It was a tremendously impressive occasion 
to me. I remember this incident very distinctly. I 
could scarcely swallow my food so absorbed was I with 
the visitor. He was tall, tanned and muscular. He 
ate our coarse food ravenously, and complimented my 
mother — and not without reason — on her culinary 
accomplishments. 

But his general remarks were noncommittal, though 
I hung with rapt attention on his every commonplace 
observation. After dinner the sheriff thanked us for 
our hospitality, then taking his sombrero, he started 
down the lane in the direction of the Big Woods. The 
whole neighborhood was keyed up to the highest pitch. 

Early in the afternoon the sheriffs held a conference 
at an appointed place on the edge of the Big Woods, 
after which they disappeared into the forest. I was 
kept at the house all day. My father changed his 
work to a field just back of the orchard. The afternoon 
waned, l^o news of the bandit. Darkness fell and 
still the Big Woods enveloped pursuers and pursued in 



McKiM, The Baxdit 143 

mysterious silence. We scarcely slept ; it was the 
second night of sleeplessness and anxiety. We could 
see Dan Hunt's window from our house, it was dark 
all night. Dan had not been seen since the sheriffs 
arrived. This was strange, especially when the next 
morning all four officers emerged from the woods and 
made for the station. And without McKim. 

There was an abandoned cabin in the heart of the 
Big Woods — a trappers' cabin that had not been 
occupied for years. To this cabin the sheriffs traced 
McKim. It was dark when they reached it, and not 
washing to close in on it at night they surrounded it 
and waited till daylight. And then they found it 
empty. 

With disappointment written large in their weary 
faces they went aboard the down train and left us, 
left us with McKim. Just why the western sheriffs 
abandoned their pursuit so abruptly we never knew. 
They made no comment — just silently boarded the 
train that connected with the western express. Perhaps 
they were content to have him out of their territory, 
or did not relish the idea of hunting their man in this 
section of timbered marsh land with the character of 
which they were not familiar, and where the odds 
would naturally be with the criminal. 

However this may have been, all further pursuit of 
McKim ended for the winter with the departure of the 
sheriff's posse. 

For weeks during that fall and winter the whole 
communitv was in a state of mild terror. 



144 The Swamps 

^ow the Crowmans and the Hunts — the lazy, worth- 
less families of the Swamps — were not vicious; we 
never feared them, only held them in utter contempt. 
Murder was unknown in the Swamps. It had occurred 
on one or two occasions in the outlying Hill sections 
where society had reached a higher state of civiliza- 
tion and culture; but so far, the more undesirable 
elements of the Swamps were just plain, shiftless, 
ne'er-do-well trash. 

But here now in our midst was a real Western 
desperado with a record of many murders to his credit, 
who was armed with modern weapons and who was 
reputed to be a deadly shot. That he was actually 
among us admitted of no doubt, and that such a 
character existed and operated extensively in those 
western hold-up days was a matter of record. McKim's 
reputation had not escaped any of us, and now whether 
we wished it or not he was our guest, a guest though 
uninvited that promised to remain with us all winter. 

But as the weeks passed some of the initial terror 
wore off. During the six months he was with us one 
might almost truthfully say he became a familiar figure 
in the Swamps, for he would often approach the nervous 
inhabitants and talk with them about various things — 
the weather, the crops and whatever was of general 
interest. Of course, McKim had to live and he was 
not entirely without funds. He bought when it suited 
his convenience, but too frequently he foraged. The 
abandoned cabin in the depth of the Big Woods served 
as his habitation. I never saw McKim, at least that 



McKiM, The Bandit 145 

I remember. But my father did on several occasions. 
He would see him stalking stealthily through the forest 
or furtively skirting the margins of the fields. One 
day McKim approached my father where he was 
chopping in the fringe of the forest and conversed with 
him for over an hour. My father was so excited when 
he came from work that night that he could scarcely eat 
his supper. "What did he say?" we all asked. "Lots 
of things," father replied vaguely. Then we pressed 
him for particulars, but my father seemed at a loss to 
know where to begin. 

But at length we learned that McKim had proved 
a rather pleasant visitor and my father had been greatly 
impressed by him. As I remember the account of the 
conversation McKim had discussed the various phases 
of the West, its needs and possibilities and interspersed 
his conversation with many an entertaining anecdote. 
In short, my father had had a very pleasant afternoon 
with the bandit and ever since that visit my father, at 
least, seemed to have lost his fear of McKim. 

McKim was always alert and generally on the move. 
1^0 one ever approached his cabin either night or day — 
no one save Dan Hunt. Dan Hunt was the only 
resident of the Swamps that fraternized with McKim. 
Dan went on his hunting excursions into the Big Woods 
as usual. Indeed it was reported that Dan even took 
his fiddle with him at times to the lone bandit's cabin 
and fiddled for him far into the night. 

It was Dan who afterward gave us the best account 
of the bandit's prowess -with pistols, averrinj; that he, 



146 The Swamps 

himself, saw McKim bring down from the top of a tall 
oak a big wild turkey gobbler with an unerring shot. 
Dan also brought us wonderful tales of McKim's blood 
curdling exploits in the West. How much of Dan's 
account of McKim was true and how much was pure 
fiction we could not accurately determine, but that Dan 
knew him intimately and associated and visited with 
him seemed altogether probable. Dan, the silent fiddler, 
was a character with a decided personality, and I have 
always believed he came to know McKim well; may 
have known him in other days. Dan was always un- 
fathomable and it was just like him to take to this 
desperado, though Dan, himself, had nothing of the 
daredevil about him. I can imagine these two strange 
characters opposite in many ways within that abandoned 
cabin within the deep forest finding much together in 
common. 

What was to be the outcome of McKim's presence 
among us was a question on every lip. He was 
undesirable, for he kept us all on the anxious seat, and, 
besides he had to live; he did live and largely at the 
expense of the farmers round about. N"or did he pay 
for all that he ate. Chickens and pigs had mysteriously 
disappeared, though when he needed groceries he applied 
in person to some convenient cabin and always paid in 
full for what he demanded from the farmer's wife. 

Time wore on, and in a way we became accustomed 
to the bandit's presence among us. But not entirely. 
True, our vigilance relaxed to some extent, but we were 
still conscious that the desperado was still in our midst. 



McKiM, The Baxdit 147 

I was not allowed my accustomed freedom, and both 
Tip and I felt it sorely, for with the early winter Tip 
grew restive under the urge of the chase. I was too 
young to be entrusted with a gun, though I could slioot 
fairly well when my father in his presence allowed me 
a try with Long Tom. But Tip could run like the 
wind, and on more than one weaponless hunt with him 
we returned home with Tip bounding by my side while 
I proudly bore across my shoulder a nice fat rabbit that 
Tip had captured in a straightway race. And now 
rabbits were good — fat and juicy. I felt that something 
must be done to rid the community of the menace and 
restore to Tip and me our accustomed freedom. Just 
as I was turning over in my mind methods that might 
bring about the removal of our thralldom, a sheriif's 
posse again appeared on the scene. But instead of the 
quartet of the year before, another was added to the 
posse and five officials now alighted from the train at 
Rushville. Again they held a short conversation with 
Mr. Hallrand after which they started once more for 
the Swamps. 

As usual in a pioneer settlement the news spread 
rapidly and all the countryside was soon on the qui 
vive. We knew another raid was to be made on our 
uninvited and unwelcome guest. The mild winter had 
given way to an early spring and the farmers were 
busy with their spring work. But work now ceased, 
the air was charged with electricity, was dynamic and 
an explosion was imminent. We all felt that something 



148 The Swamps 

tragic was going to happen this time and for the 
moment we discussed nothing else. 

Dan Hunt happened to be at the station when the 
train pulled in. Dan never said much but was an 
attentive listener. It afterward fell out that he did not 
remain at the store long after the sheriffs began to 
question Mr. Hallrand but had quietly slipped away 
without being observed, ^o one knew in the excite- 
ment when he went or where. But an hour or two 
later I saw him creeping along the edge of the clearing, 
the one beyond the Big Ditch that borders the Big 
Woods. Tip and I had been allowed to go as far as 
the Big Ditch and we were in that enchanted chaunel 
then. The remains of the spring freshet in the form of 
numerous puddles were still in the bottom of the ditch 
and we were looking for minnows and mice, and if luck 
favored us, a predatory snapping turtle. A moment 
later my mother called us to the house. At first I 
protested, for I had just discovered a pool containing 
half a dozen live minnows. But when she stated the 
reason for her action I at once forgot my quest, and 
like the other members of the family, became greatly 
excited. I told my mother about seeing Dan Hunt 
passing into the Big Woods from the edge of our 
clearing and she gave a knowing, "Ah, I see !" I asked 
her what she meant and she replied with feigned 
indifference, "Oh, nothing in particular." 

We were thus engaged in conversation when one of 
the sheriffs appeared around the corner of the house 
and asked my mother the shortest way to the Big 



McKiM, The Bandit 141» 

Woods. He was the extra man that had been added 
to the |K.sse of the fall before. He seemed serious and 
did not linger long after my mother pointed the way out 
to him. When last we saw him he was going down the 
lane past Jack Kling's cabin in the direction of the 
Big Woods. 

!My father came home from his work earlier than 
usual that night and before dark had finished all his 
chores. He barred the barn doors and saw that all 
was secure for the night. Then we sat do^^Tl to supper 
but no one seemed especially interested in the meal. 
But when bedtime arrived I was ready for bed; not 
even the possibility of tragedy in our neighborhood 
proved a deterrent to the demands of a healthy boy's 
body for sleep, and I slept soundly throughout the night. 

Morning broke and all was quiet. Xo one had seen 
either McKim or the sheriffs. About noon all five of 
the officers met in the road about five hundred feet 
above our house. They had traced McKim from the 
woods and to this point in the road. Here one of the 
Crowmans had seen him cross early in the morning. 
He must now travel open country and in broad day- 
light; to trail him was comparatively easy. All day 
they followed him. He was making towards the 
southeast corner of the county. Now this part of the 
county borders on the foothills of a nearby mountain 
range, and in these foothills there are five fairly large 
caves. In later years we often visited these caves, for 
here was still to be found in the mountain foothills 
considerable large game — small bears among them. 



150 The Swamps 

McKim was traced to the caves, and acting upon 
the reasonable conclusion that the bandit had taken 
refuge in one of them the officers laid seige to the 
caves, one man to each cavern. They also reasonably 
concluded that to seek him in the cave would be suicidal. 
There was nothing left save to starve him. In one of 
these caves there was a flowing spring of clear, cold 
water. This, of the five, they thought would be the 
logical one for McKim to select. But they took no 
chances on thd others; an offi.cer was placed on guard 
at the mouth of each of them. It was a question of 
starving out McKim. 

It so happened that the big officer who dined with 
us the fall before was selected to guard the cave 
containing the spring of flomng water. This big, 
genial fellow did not have long to wait for an 
opportunity to try conclusions with the bandit. McKim 
had arrived at the caves exhausted, he had no supplies, 
he knew a fight with the sheriff was inevitable and 
delay would only make him weaker. 

On the night of the second day after his escape from 
the Swamps McKim ventured from his hiding place, 
from the cave that is known today as McKim's cave. 
The hour selected was late when McKim thought to 
catch the guard napping. 

]N'ow McKim's cave took off from a ravine with 
almost perpendicular sides. The mouth of the cave 
was fifty feet above the bed of the stream. Only from 
one side could the entrance to the cave be reached. 



McKiM, The Bandit ir>l 

This was over a narrow ledge that led around the scarp 
of the hill on which two people could barely pass. On 
this ledge the sheriff was stationed. He was awake and 
alert when McKim made the sally. Each became 
conscious of the other's presence on the ledge. So long 
as McKim kept around the shoulder of the hill he was 
out of range of the sheriff's pistol. To rush the officer 
seemed foolhardy and the bandit hesitated. Even if he 
grappled him before he could shoot, in all probability 
they both would fall to the bed of the rocky ravine 
below and to their death. It was a tense period. They 
called to each other, they dared each other. Then the 
sheriff fired a shot into the air. This was to call the 
other officers to the scene. McKim knew this. There 
was no time to spare. The bandit boldly rushed his 
guard. 

The larger man pushed or carried McKim back to 
the broad mouth of the cave. Here McKim in some 
manner succeeded in freeing himself from the sheriff's 
grasp, when a pistol duel in the dark took place. 
Another sheriff, the one stationed nearest to the scene 
of combat, being aroused by the firing was now making 
his way in the dark along the narrow ledge to the scene 
of the duel. But as he rounded the shoulder of the 
hill that opened into the mouth of the cave the firing 
ceased; only groans could be heard. Our big brawny 
sheriff lay mortally wounded. McKim was quite dead. 
The wounded officer lived just long enough to give a 
short account of the tragedy. He then sank into 



152 The Swamps 

unconsciousness. Before the sun was well over the hills 
he died. 

By broad daylight the other three sheriffs had made 
their way along the ledge to the battleground. One of 
McKim's six shooters was empty and lay by his side; 
the other contained four unexploded shells. He must 
have fired eight shots altogether ; four of them struck his 
adversary between the hips and the head. Of the 
sheriff's five empty shells three struck the bandit in the 
chest. One pierced his heart. It was a bloody 
encounter and the limestone of the floor of the cave 
was said to show the location of the pools of blood for 
months afterwards. 

A farm team was summoned and at Hillton two 
coffins were obtained. When the four o'clock train 
came down half the countryside was at Rushville. Two 
wooden boxes could be seen through the open door of 
the baggage car. Everybody craned their necks to get 
a view of these impressive objects. Dan Hunt was 
there, surly and silent. Some of the neighbors had 
resented his intimacy with McKim; they had even 
accused him of being in cahoots with him in some of his 
local pilfering. Most thought he had aided McKim's 
escape, not only from the Swamps to the caves, but 
from the cabin the fall before. On this subject Dan 
never committed himself. 

As the years passed Dan Hunt withdrew more and 
more within himself. He seldom fiddled now for the 
weekly shindigs, though when passing at night I could 
often hear the tremulous tones of his violin within his 



McKiM, The Bandit 153 

cabin. Even his hunting excursions became less 
frequent. Dan was growing old. He lived alone and 
we wondered if he had enough to eat. Once my father 
stopped at the cabin and asked if he needed anything. 
Dan rather scornfully resented the implied charity, and 
my father never repeated the offer. 

Then Dan played his last tune — his swan song. But 
it wasn't a jig. I happened to be passing the cabin 
that night, and I heard him playing. It was a strange 
tune and I stopped in the road and listened. The sad, 
weird tones held me spellbound. Was it an improvised 
outpouring of Dan's proud, misunderstood soul, a 
protest against an implacable fate? Then the motif 
changed to a triumphal strain, a hallelujah, a victory 
over life's injustices and wrongs. Once again the theme 
shifted and angels now whispered their hope and 
promise in strains as beautiful as the tints of a gorgeous 
sunset. Gradually the music melted to a whisper and 
then ceased altogether. 

Still under the spell of the strange, weird music, I 
moved along the road as in a dream. Xever had the 
strings of Dan's old fiddle so moved me, so lifted me 
into the realms of fantasy, and far into the night those 
weird, compelling strains dominated my soul. 

The next morning when they found him he was 
still fondly clasping his beloved violin, his lifelong 
companion whose last music had soothed and composed 
his passing soul. 

Dan's death made a deep impression on the entire 
neighborhood, for with all his cold reserve and false 



154 The Swamps 

pride there was something innately fine about him. 
Even his association with McKim was now almost 
forgotten and certainly forgiven; especially when the 
bandit's relationship to Dan was finally established. 
This was brought about through a packet of trinkets 
done up in oilskin and secreted between the logs of 
Dan's cabin. Among them was a letter from McKim 
in which he referred to his and Dan's mother. This 
woman had been twice married. Her first husband was 
a ECunt. Then she moved west and married a McKim. 
Dan and the bandit were half brothers. 



CHAPTER XIII 
The HiUNTs And The Ceowmans 

Society in the Swamps divided itself, as time wore 
on, into two distinct groups. These two groups were as 
widely separated in every sense as could well be 
imagined. When my parents elected to live in the 
Swamps, only a few hardy trappers were then to be 
found there. Then as the reclamation of this wooded 
marsh proceeded, the Swamps became a favorite 
anchorage for all kinds of human driftwood brought in 
from every point of the compass on the restless tide of 
the times. We never knew exactly where these 
stragglers came from. On some unoccupied land a 
shack of the meanest and cheapest character, every now 
and then, would spring up. And presently a curling 
wisp of smoke arising from these miserable shelters 
would announce their occupancy. Sometimes only a 
lone wanderer would be discovered about the shack ; 
sometimes more. Occasionally women of the most 
slovenly type would be found mixed with the men ; 
women of no morals and low mentality. 

In time these fag ends of humanity fused into a sort 
of stratum, the lowest stratum in the social scale. As 
a rule they were not vicious ; they were too ignorant and 
spineless for that. They led negative lives of utter 
worthlessness. They stood in more or less awe of my 
father and his class. This was fortunate for us, for 
they greatly outnumbered us. At first they attempted 



156 The Swamps 

to ease their miserable existence by petty thieving; but 
we promptly nipped this in the bud. They were very 
cowardly and superstitious, and whenever we suspected 
someone had been stealing our chickens, or other food 
products we "hanted" them, that is, we caused various 
mysterious happenings to occur in the immediate 
vicinity of the suspect's cabin. This was always done 
at night, and the occupants, once they heard these 
spooky sounds outside, became terror stricken, and could 
seldom be induced to venture beyond the threshold. 

Jack Kling, my father and my two older brothers 
always took a lively interest in devising ways and means 
to terrify these chicken thieves. Of course, all wore 
costumes of the most ghostly and startling appearance. 
More than one of my mother's best sheets came back 
seriously damaged when used as a uniform on these 
excursions through thickets and brush. I was not old 
enough myself to take part in these minatory expedi- 
tions, but I remember them well. Draped in white 
sheets and provided with noise-provoking and moan- 
producing instruments the hooded company would issue 
forth from our door and be swallowed up in the darkness 
beyond — to me, a most frightful band bent upon the 
business of the night. Thus fully panoplied they would 
make the rounds of the nearby cabins. Sometimes 
they would not return until midnight; and for days 
afterward they would chuckle over the adventure. 
Although promptly put to bed I seldom went to sleep 
until they returned. 



The Hints And The Ckowmans 157 

Among other things, they always took with them a 
bag of chicken remains, heads, feathers and feet, the 
leavings of several kills for domestic use. These, I 
noticed, my mother would store away before one of 
these raids instead of giving them, as was her wont, to 
old Tip. The reason for her unusual procedure now 
became clear to me; they were to be used as significant 
warnings to the suspects of the cabins. After having 
terrified them from the nearby woods by flappings, cock 
crowing and cackling these remains of slaughtered 
chickens would be hung to the cabin door, scattered 
along the path, or otherwise conspicuously placed where 
they could easily be seen. Sometimes a member of the 
"banting'' party would sneak up to the front door to 
which some heavy object — a piece of metal or crockery 
— Avould be fastened. Then, with a string attached and 
held in his hand, he would hide behind some convenient 
object, and while the other members of the party were 
giving forth terrifying groans and moans alternating 
with blood curdling shrieks, the operator of the "tic- 
tac" would keep up an emphasizing tattoo on the door. 
This never failed to spread terror among the inmates 
of the cabin. On one occasion, related by my father, 
when this gruelling had been going on for some time, 
the entire household, three men and two women, rushed 
screaming through the door and into the nearby thicket. 
Here catching sight of some member of the white- 
shrouded gang, one of the women fainted dead away. 
My father had to carry her back to the cabin where 
she was finallv revived. But no sooner had she again 



158 The Swamps 

caught sight of the "hant" than she broke away once 
more, and this time, was soon swallowed up by the black 
forest. This particular cabin was never again 
occupied; for years it stood dreary and alone, and the 
story of the ghostly visitants was current among the 
trash of the Swamps for a long time afterwards. 

What became of this particular company my father 
never knew, but from that night forward we never 
missed any more chickens ; petty thieving was effectually 
stamped out. 

But while this was abated, still this Swamp trash 
was never an asset to the community. They were 
shiftless, lazy, and morally lax. We often needed extra 
help on the farm but threaten them as we would, we 
could never make them work for us. Kow the old 
trappers, when game disappeared before the woodsman's 
axe, easily turned their energies to husbandry. Jack 
Kling died in my father's employ, and Dink Cherry 
became a valuable tenant on my brother's farm. But 
these lazy loafers seldom could be induced to give us a 
hand when help was badly needed. Indeed, they would 
not work for themselves except just enough to keep soul 
and body together, a margin that often proved too 
narrow especially in winter when their provisions ran 
out, and when we then either had to feed them or see 
them starve. They were just plain "ornery." I don't 
know the origin of this expressive word, but we always 
applied it to these people — just "ornery trash." It 
seemed to be the only word in our vocabulary that 
adequately described them. 



The Hunts And The Crowmans 159 

With this "ornery" lot marriage was praftically 
unknown, they simply "took up" with each other. The 
children were, therefore, all illegitimate — "woods colts," 
we called them. From such forebearers they were quite 
naturally miserable specimens of childhood; rickety, 
undernourished, sometimes half-witted. I remember 
one family — a family, of course, "without benefit of 
clergy" — that were affected with a loathsome disease of 
the head. They were known as the "scald-headed" 
family, and though I have since studied medicine, I am 
unable at this distance, to diagnose the disease. But I 
remember this "scald-headed bunch" very distinctly. 
Every member of the family from the parents to the 
youngest of ten children were similarly affected, that is, 
every scalp was a mass of corruption. Xo hair; but 
instead the entire cranium was encrusted with scabby, 
pus-exuding sores. It may have been vermin ; it may 
have been a chronic infection. But whatever the cause, 
the effect was loathsome beyond measure. These people 
never came nearer our house than to pass along the 
road, but as they never wore hats — couldn't with any 
comfort — the condition of their heads was plainly 
visible. This was, to be sure, an extreme case, and I 
believe even among their own kind, this family was 
taboo. The other members of the ornery trash were 
slovenly enough, but for the most part were seldom so 
offensively diseased. 

Now in the older Hill section to the south where the 
Rudolph family from the East first settled this ornery 
element was negligible. Western immigration at the 



160 The Swamps 

time of this settlement had not yet set in ; there was no 
driftwood of this character at that period. Only the 
hardy, well-to-do Rudolphs and Deidricks — the latter 
my mother's people — were here to be found. But at 
the time my parents Avent to the Swamps the gold rush 
was in full swing, and the Swamps proved a catch 
basin for the leavings, the weak-kneed, the offscourings 
that dropped off from the gold rush caravans as they 
made their way to the West. 

^sTot only was this ornery Swamp element a charge 
at times on the self-supporting and self-respecting 
families of the community, but they were forever 
holding nocturnal shindigs, hoedowns, and other noisy 
gatherings at their cabins. The entire gang always 
attended these affairs, first held in one shack and then 
in another, and, since one community was located above 
our house and another below, they always passed us in 
their goings and comings. As these parties never broke 
up till far into the night, we were always awakened 
when the noisy roisterers passed our house on their way 
home. We had warned them to be quiet but with little 
effect. They were dumb to our entreaties and the noise 
continued. 

Now my father, and all of us for that matter, needed 
sleep, and he vowed he'd find a way to put an end to 
these nightly nuisances. But how? That was the 
question. He bethought him of their cowardice and 
superstition. But he could not discover an effective 
leverage that he could bring to bear upon this angle of 
their weakness. ISTow there was a marsh, a sort of 



The HrxTs And The Cro\vma.\> ICl 

quagmire, near the road not far from our house. This 
marsh, only a small area, was too low to suffer itself 
to be drained into the Big Ditch. So it remained 
uncultivated, and in it, rank vegetation year by year 
grew up and rotted. I believe there was some founda- 
tion for the report that mysterious lights had been seen 
hovering over this marsh on certain nights. I know in 
later years I found it an easy matter to collect marsh 
gas here. Many a fruit jar I have filled with it by 
holding the inverted container over the marshy bottom 
while I stirred up the mud beneath with a long stick 
and caught the released bubbles. This will-o'-the-wisp 
had been bruited about the neighborhood, as a sort of 
ghost, that held high jinks in the vicinity of the marsh. 
My father now took occasion to spread fresh repons 
about this luminous ghost, richly embellishing them for 
a purpose. He was particular to have Jack Kling tell 
some of the Crowmiins — the Crowmans and the Hunts 
made up the majority of the ornery Swamp trash — 
about the mysterious movements in the neighborhood 
of the marsh, the pale ghostly, luminous body he had 
seen there lately. 

Then when he felt satisfied the objectionable ganir 
had been sufiiciently apprised of these fresh manifesta- 
tions about the marsh, he laid his plans for the denoue- 
ment. He had to let Jack into the secret. Now Jack 
Kling never would associate with this ornery trash. 
Dink Cherry did; finally "took up'' with one of the 
women and produced a motley brood of brats. True, 
my brother at length induced him to go through a legal 



162 The Swamps 

ceremony with "his woman" which legalized his 
children. But Jack preferred his own society to theirs. 
He lived alone in his cabin, died there. Lonesome 
Sundays he generally spent in the Big Woods. 

So when my father suggested hazing this gang that 
nightly disturbed us, Jack was in full accord. My 
father could trust Jack, and together they laid their 
plans. Already some of the gang had refused to pass 
the marsh at night, but not many. Those who did 
persist in attending these shindigs, acting upon the 
policy of the little boy who whistled to keep his courage 
up, were all the more noisy while passing this section 
of the road. 

In the meantime both Jack and my father devised 
a costume of white muslin that was held out from the 
body by a series of hoops. These hoops increased the 
outline of the body to the size of a hogshead. Between 
the hoops and the body, half a dozen candles inclosed 
in glass bottles and supported on fireproof holders, were 
arranged. The white muslin passed over the head, 
and the two eyes were fitted with red paper, behind 
each of which was placed in a glass lamp chimney, a 
tallow tip. Jack Kling, always a boy at heart, took 
especial delight in all these preparatiolis. To my 
mother, of course, fell the task of fitting these great, 
balloon-like garments to the men. She afterward 
averred that this dressmaking for ghosts was the most 
difficult job she ever was called upon to do. 

But at length they were completed, and the two men 
held a dress rehearsal one night in the back yard. Since 



The Hunts Axd The Ckow maxs 163 

I was sworn to secrecy, I was permitted to witness the 
exhibition. It was most startling especially when they 
practiced their weird motions — slow leaps, crouches and 
kangaroo bounds. 

Jack found out that on the coming Saturday night 
there was to be given, at Dan Hunt's cabin, a 
particularly pretentious affair. Dan was the official 
fiddler. He also was a hunter when not engaged in 
fiddling, and within the week, had located and captured 
a den of six possums. For the coming occasion he had 
promised a hot possum lunch. 

When Jack reported this news my father exclaimed, 
"That's our chance, Jack. It's the dark o' the moon, 
too, a dark night is just when we want." Then after 
a moment's thought he continued. "Jack, I want you 
to cut a dozen saplings about ten feet long, and store 
'em along the road just north of the marsh." To Jack's 
inquiring glance my father replied, "Xever mind what 
I want 'em for ; you'll find out in time." 

Jack scratched the fringe of hair that bordered his 
bald head, looked puzzled, but replied, "All right, 
George, I'll have 'em there." And they were. I heard 
Jack's axe the next afternoon in the woods alongside the 
road. I ventured down and watched him. With every 
sapling he toted to the road he'd give a merry chuckle. 
"Going to be a big time here, Sheridan, next Saturday 
night. I'll bet a Crowman or a Hunt won't pass this 
marsh again at night for the rest of his life." 

"Say, Jack, what's the poles for?" I asked. 



164 The Swamps 

"Dunno, son, but George is got something up his 
sleeve, leave it to George, I am. We'll find out by and 
by." 

Saturday night arrived. It was cloudy — and in the 
dark of the moon. A blacker night could hardly be 
imagined. In due course the gang could be heard 
feeling their way above along the dark road to Dan 
Hunt's cabin that stood just beyond the bend. After 
they had passed our house my father said, "JSTow, Jack, 
come on, let's set the poles." Then after a pause, 
"Bring the axe and them forked sticks I cut this 
afternoon, they're back of the woodhouse. We'll have 
to take the tin lantern, too, it won't give enough light 
for anybody to notice it." Jack with the axe and sticks 
followed my father down the road to where the poles 
lay. "^ow, Jack, drive these forks along the sides of 
the road about twenty feet apart — one opposite the 
other." I went along and held the lantern for Jack. 
"N^ow lay the saplings in the forks — across the road," 
my father directed. Jack now began to see the use to 
which the poles were to be put. He gave an approving 
chuckle. When the work was completed we had twelve 
poles across the road. They stood two feet or more 
above the surface, just right to mix up a crowd — a 
frightened crowd running from a ghost. "Has old 
Doctor B. D. gone back yet. Jack? I saw him pass up 
the road before supper." 

"Hain't seed him," Jack answered. 

"N^either have I. We got to lay down them hurdles 
till he goes home. Guess old widder Sinclair must be 



The Hints Axn The Ckowmaxs 1G5 

purty poorly." Jack lifted each pole out of its crotch 
and placed it by the side of the road. And none too 
soon either, for just as he had finished, we heard the 
dull thud of Doc's splay-footed mare thumping down 
the road. *'Put that lantern under your coat. Jack, 
and crouch down behind that bush." At the same time 
my father grabbed me and dragged me to another 
sheltering bush. In another minute Doctor B. D., 
mumbling to himself, went thudding by all unconscious 
of our presence. "Better leave 'em down for the 
present, someone else may come ambling along, it's 
early yet ; let's go back to the house and get ready." 

About midnight Jack replaced the poles, and walked 
to the bend of the road in the direction of Dan Hunt's 
cabin. He came back presently and reported that the 
party was about to break up. Hurriedly Jack and my 
father now donned their makeups, and went to the 
edge of the marsh. There was no fence between the 
marsh and the road — only a dense thicket behind which 
the two ghosts took up their positions. I was ordered 
to the house with the lantern, it was only a few hundred 
feet away. This I did reluctantly. "Tell your mother 
to put out the lights." I hurried home with the 
message. After the lights were out, both my mother 
and myself crouched down by the front window. 
Brother Clarkson, who had been kept from the secret, 
was asleep in bed. Through the gloom we could see on 
the side of the thicket nearest the house the pale glow 
of the ghostly costumes. We waited and waited. "Tlie 
candles will burn out before they come," I commented. 



166 The Swamps 

To this my mother replied that every light was a good 
half tallow candle and would burn two hours. From 
our south window I could see the faint blink of the 
window in Dan Hunt's cabin. Then a long streak of 
light shot towards the road. The front door of the 
cabin had been opened and showed up dark moving 
objects. The party was over. My heart thumped with 
excitement. The noise of the coming crowd now 
reached my ears. They were nearing the marsh. I 
saw the pale lights of the ghosts cautiously move towards 
the road — then shoot forward. A screech that rent 
the blackness of the night reached our ears. Then 
another and another till all the countryside echoed and 
re-echoed with the wild reverberation. With these ear- 
splitting screams dull thuds mingled as one after 
another of the panic stricken party reached and tumbled 
headlong over the hurdles in their mad flight up the 
road. Women fainted and were trampled in the dust 
where they fell. Every time they tripped over a fresh 
hurdle a cry for mercy would end in a muffled moan. 
Both Jack and my father became alarmed lest some of 
the frenzied crowd might destroy themselves. For a 
time they withdrew behind the thicket. By this time 
those who had negotiated the hurdles went pell mell and 
still screaming up the road. My mother said she could 
only make out now and then a black object against the 
white, dusty road as it flew with the speed of an arrow 
screaming along to the north. Those who had fainted 
finally came to, moaning and half demented. Some of 
them in their confusion headed back the other way. 



The Hunts And The Crowmans 167 

Jack was sent below to turn them. ''Blow out all but 
one candle," my father directed. "I will remove the 
hurdles." In this manner the poor, half-crazed 
creatures still screaming when they saw the single light 
finally were headed past our house. 

When my father and Jack finally reached home they 
wore serious faces. Their experiment had worked all 
too well. Certainly, they thought, some of them had 
been seriously injured. 

Early next morning father removed the forked 
sticks and poles out of sight, and destroyed all evidences 
of human complicity in the matter. He picked up 
shreds of clothing from the roadway, covered several 
blood stains in the dust and smoothed out the signs of 
violent struggle. 

Then we waited reports, but not long. Half of the 
crowd was laid up with cuts, bruises and shattered 
nerves. One poor wretch lay moaning in dementia for 
over a week. Jack circulated among them and reported 
his findings. The ghosts had multiplied from two to 
twenty, they were violent ghosts and repeatedly knocked 
their victims senseless in the middle of the road. They 
exhibited numerous cuts and bruises to verify their 
statements. Jack — to them — could not understand it, 
he hadn't heard a thing all night, neither had George. 
But he admitted it must be true. Jack declared to the 
Crowmans and Hunts he wouldn't pass that marsh at 
night for all the money in the world. He always 
thought it was hanted. And then he added his own 
experience, "once upon a time." The whole gang was 



168 The Swamps 

terrified, all but Dan Hunt. He only sneered and came 
and went as usual. But alone and silent. Dan was 
always silent. 

That ended our disturbance. The shindigs in the 
lower settlements ceased. What few were held in the 
upper were not attended by members below our house, 
or if they were, they didn't come home till after day- 
light. And then very quietly. 



CHAPTER XIV 
A Sunday's Program 

With the coming of roads into the Swamps distances 
were appreciably shortened; intercommunication in- 
creased; the community circle was widened and neigh- 
borhood news was more generally disseminated. My 
parents could now visit their Hill relations in a single 
day, and return by twilight. Social gatherings were 
more widely attended and religious services more regu- 
larly conducted. Several new churches were erected — 
one, in order the better to accommodate the Swamp set- 
tlement, was located at the edge of the Hills in the 
direction of our home. Here both the Hill and the 
Swamp branches of the Rudolph family met to worship ; 
and on Sunday afternoons, to entertain and be enter- 
tained. Very early I remember going to church. With 
us it was not only a religious ritual, but a family 
function as well. Sunday was, perhaps, the busiest day 
in the whole week. Contrary to custom nowadays we 
arose early on Sunday mornings because there were 
many things to be done before starting for Church. 
There was my Sunday morning bath, which in my 
childhood days was rarely successful if left to my own 
efforts. After I had sloshed around in the wash tub 
behind the kitchen stove for awhile, my mother would 
stop her breakfast operations long enough to look me 
over, and with the usual exclamation of despair. Then 
while breakfast waited she would roll np her sleeves. 



170 The Swamps 

and with a cake of brown homemade soap in one hand 
and a coarse, knitted wash cloth in the other would 
begin a vigorous scrubbing — chafing my skin till I 
looked as red as a broiled lobster. Against her ener- 
getic manipulations I would weakly protest, staggering 
and swaying about the tub like a sailor just landed 
from a long cruise. 

But time was precious on these Sunday mornings, 
the bacon was about to burn, and my mother had to 
hurry. "^N'ow then," she would conclude, "hop out and 
dry yourself while I fry the eggs." But try as I would 
I could never master the art of reaching my back or of 
forcing the coarse, homespun towel between my toes; 
and mother again came to the rescue. 

My "Sunday clothes" were laid on a chair, and 
though I could ride old Fan in a gallop, I was forever 
fuddled when I undertook to dress for church. My 
stiffly starched waist was stubbornness personified. 
After patiently working my hands through the glued and 
boardlike sleeves I found I had the garment on "hind- 
side foremost," or "inside out." It was the same with 
my short, ample-legged pants — those with a row of 
three bright buttons along the side of the slot where 
they stopped at the knee. I would get both legs into 
the same opening, or if not that, I would find the pants 
after getting into them, facing away from church 
when by all logic they should be turned towards the 
sanctuary. 

Once more the breakfast would be delayed while my 
mother unsnarled my Sunday clothes. 



A Sunday's Program 171 

But that was not all; my shoes during the week's 
idleness had quarreled and separated. Only one could 
be found; its partner had gone adrift, and could no- 
where be located. Here was another exasperating 
delay; my mother had to hunt for it, and once more 
breakfast was halted. JSTot that I wore the shoes much 
of the day — only slipping them on before reaching the 
meeting house to be again discarded soon after services 
— but they had to be found and tucked away under the 
buggy seat ready when we wanted them. Then my 
hat — my Sunday hat — not the one I wore, or generally 
didn't wear, during the WTek; that was always to be 
found on the floor or under the bed — but my Sunday 
hat which was an important part of the Sunday regalia, 
and which was always carefully put away in the band- 
box, set apart for its use, each Sunday night. There 
it reposed in seclusion till the next "Lord's Day." I 
remember very well my first state hat. It was a semi- 
soft gray affair with a black band and a narrow, turned- 
up brim bordered with black braid; and a shiny, little 
buckle where the band formed the bow. My gray coat, 
also bound in black braid, about completed my Sunday 
outfit. 

Meanwhile, my father, having returned to the house 
from feeding the stock, stripped to the waist, and with 
a basin of water and a bar of this brown, homemade 
soap began, from the back steps, his Sunday morning 
ablution. Then followed his weekly shave. The 
formidable razor was first drawn from its sheath. A 
leather strap was next fastened to the door. Then with 



172 The Swamps 

the art of a trained swordsman he dealt the strap a 
resounding blow with the flat side of the razor. 
Immediately he drew the blade across the strap, instant- 
ly repeating the process in an opposite direction, till 
the slaps and strokes blended into a rhythmic tattoo 
that always fascinated me and raised my father, for 
the moment, to the dignity of a magician. Every 
moment I fully expected the keen edge of the razor to 
sever the strap, or worse, to continue on its flight across 
the leather to the fingers of his hand. But nothing of 
the kind ever happened, though each time he stropped 
his razor I held my breath in suspense. 

It was equally alluring to watch him shave. When 
he lathered his face, I was all attention. It always 
reminded me of blowing soap bubbles. Beginning just 
below the eyes, he worked the lather down through his 
heavy, black beard, to a line drawn between the lobe 
of his ear and the center of his chin. Here he stopped. 
I often wondered why? Aiid in shaving how did he 
know just where to stop in sweeping the keen blade 
over his face ? And why didn't the razor go deep into 
his flesh instead of just skimming over the surface? 
It was little use for my mother to expect my own toilet 
to progress much while father was shaving; for I was 
certain sooner or later some grave accident would 
happen; or if he, by good luck, came through un- 
scathed, the line that marked the limit of his shaven 
face from the bushy beard below would somehow 
become hopelessly shifted, and in consequence my 



A Sunday's Program 173 

father's appearance would be ruined; for, I reasoned, 
once that fixed line wavered all would be lost. 

Breakfast would finally be announced which was 
generally eaten in haste and attended with no little 
anxiety, for still much remained to be done before the 
family could begin the journey to church. Old Fan 
was to be harnessed and hitched to the buggy. Suf- 
ficient water had to be pumped into the big trough, dug 
out of a huge log, to keep the cattle supplied for the day. 
The chickens had to be fed, the hogs supplied with corn, 
the cows milked and turned out to pasture, and a dozen 
other preparations made to provide for leaving the 
homestead unattended all day; for prepare as carefully 
as we could against harm, our return to the farm at 
nightfall often revealed some mischief done — the cows 
had broken into the cornfield, the pigs into the potato 
patch, the chickens sometimes scratched up the garden. 

Then finally all excited and flustered we were 
packed into the buggy — my brother and I between our 
parents with our legs dangling over the high seat — and 
old Fan started off. Surreptitiously I would sometimes 
discover my father slip a chew of tobacco into his 
cheek and when my mother was looking the other way 
discharge the amber juice to his side of the road. 1 
say "surreptitiously" because to chew on Sunday, 
especially before church, was not considered good form, 
although after services the ban was removed. For 
after the families had paired off and gone home with 
each other and had disposed of the generous dinner, th«' 
men folks usually congregated under a shade tree in the 



174 The Swamps 

front yard. Here they swapped yarns and experiences 
together with their different brands of tobacco, when 
they chewed to their heart's content. Chewing in the 
front yard after dinner was considered altogether good 
form. 

It was the custom for one family after church to 
go home for dinner with another family. The family 
whose turn it was to entertain was usually apprised of 
the fact the Sunday before, so that all might be in 
readiness for the feast. These "turns" were figured out 
with mathematical nicety so that at the close of the 
year each family had entertained and been entertained 
in about the same number of times. As a matter of 
fact the entire congregation of about fifty families were 
either Rudolphs or related by marriage to the Rudolphs, 
so that after all it was largely a family affair from the 
opening hymn to cider, tobacco and Sunday dinner. 
We all felt free to act and talk frankly among ourselves 
in this somewhat clannish, though always loyal, inter- 
related community. 

I enjoyed the buggy ride to the church and some 
parts of the services, though the latter through no 
special spiritual appeal. My enjoyment was partly 
physical and partly speculative — physical because of the 
comfortable accommodations of the church and the 
pleasant anticipations of the afternoon — and speculative 
because I found considerable interest in calculating the 
time when the preacher would reach certain periods in 
his sermon that I had come to know — the point where 
he would emphasize the importance of baptism by 



A Sunday's Program 175 

immersion, and when he would begin to berate the 
Methodists for their heretical doctrine of baptism by 
sprinkling; then, again, when he would reach the most 
exciting point of all in his sermon, when he would 
"get mad;" by which expression we boys came to 
denominate that part of the sermon where the preacher 
would get all worked up in his peroration ; when he 
would rant and race from one side of the platform to 
the other; when he would gesticulate wildly; when he 
would wipe his face feverishly to stem the streams of 
perspiration that sprang from his florid face. This 
was worth waiting for; it was the most absorbing por- 
tion of the whole service. Time and again I have 
gasped as one particularly fat and florid preacher, 
whom I have in mind, all but fell from the platform 
in his hysterical and unsteady rushes from side to side. 
But how I loved that old roaring bull when he got mad ! 
What streams of perspiration ! What withering scorn 
when he hammered the Methodists ! 

This storm was followed by the next period of the 
sermon — the invitation to join the church. This par- 
ticular sect did not believe in infant baptism. They 
held that a child was sinless until the age of spiritual 
consciousness; and it was for him to choose for himscli 
after attaining that age whether he elected to be savcni 
or lost. He was to be saved, if at all, by conviction of 
a sense of sin — or through fear. Hell was pictured to 
the young people in all its traditional luridness. In 
imagination I have witnessed the sinner on innumerable 
occasions frying and sputtering out his eternity in a lake 



176 The Swamps 

of burning brimstone. And some of the old pioneer 
preachers were not lacking in their ability to paint in 
vivid word pictures these sizzling scenes. They por- 
trayed in no mean manner their conception of the suffer- 
ing of the eternally damned. So vivid have been these 
lakes of burning brimstone at times that I, myself, have 
all but suffered the actual tortures of those who writhed 
and squirmed through this period of the preacher's 
presentation. Many times I have fancied I could feel 
the consuming flame which so terrified me that I clung 
with cold, clammy hands to the arms of my elders while 
this lurid picture was being held up before the congre- 
gation. 

So a picture of hell and its eternally burning fires 
generally prefaced the invitation to escape this great 
disaster by joining the church. And then came the 
pleading; the persuading. Tears now took the place of 
perspiration on the fat preacher's face. This emotion 
was not infrequently answered by sobs from some one in 
the congregation; sobs, perhaps, from a mother because 
of a self-willed son or daughter who had reached the age 
of spiritual responsibility but had not yet joined the 
church. It mattered not if such children were the most 
devoted and considerate children in the world with 
characters above reproach, loved and respected by 
all ; still they were not members of the church in which 
unsaved state they might be called before the bar of 
eternal justice when, as their orthodox mothers firmly 
believed, they would be doomed to sizzle through all 
eternity in this lurid lake of burning brimstone. Her 



A Sunday's Program 177 

sobs were real because she loved her children dearly 
and she believed with all her heart that if they died un- 
baptized and without the church this awful fate awaited 
them. 

And so the appeal went on — an affecting appeal be- 
cause of the faith of the people, which when coupled 
with a not inartistic and sincere presentation was far 
from lacking in dramatic effect. 

Exhortation alternated with song — some hymn with 
a sentiment suited to the occasion. "Almost Persuaded*' 
w^as always a favorite, containing that final hopeless 
phrase, "But lost." How that terrible ending used to 
run the gamut of dismay through the depths of my 
soul; "Almost— but lost." 

Then there would be a rustle as some stricken soul 
made his way out from the long row of benches into the 
aisle. Necks were cautiously craned in the direction 
of the stir. If it proved to be some one who had long 
resisted the pleadings of the preacher, every face became 
immediately wreathed in triumphant smiles. A fervent 
"amen" escaped the lips of some emotional member 
though undignified demonstration was frowned upon in 
our church. It was too much like the shouting of the 
despised Methodists. But all was joy, and the preacher's 
face was bathed in a supernal ecstasy that rippled from 
ear to ear and swallowed up in its all-embracing ex- 
panse every other feature of his fat physiognomy. He 
grasped the newcomer by both hands as the pale suppli- 
ant approached the platform. The hymn ceased. The 
preacher announced the name, although everybody in 



178 The Swamps 

the church had known him or her from childhood — and 
then the time of baptism by immersion was settled. This 
usually took place on the following Sunday in the deep- 
est swimming hole in the nearby creek. If more than 
one joined, the enthusiasm was accordingly marked. 
Then after this part of the services was concluded, the 
Lord's Supper was celebrated. In this particular sect 
we took communion every Sunday, the preacher always 
quoting his authority for the practice from the Bible. 
Of course, we children merely sat still while the bread 
and wine was being passed to our elders in their pews. 
This was a silent and introspective part of the services ; 
only the occasional click of the cup or the scraping 
sound of the plate when coming in contact accidentally 
at times with some hard substance, broke the awe- 
inspiring stillness. 

After this in order came the concluding hymn and 
the benediction — and then, for me, the best part of the 



The church was entered by two doors — one at the foot 
of each aisle. By common consent — though there was 
no official ruling in the matter — the women entered by 
the right hand door, the men by the left. Within the 
church they disposed themselves in like manner. In 
courting days the swain left his sweetheart at the door, 
and followed the custom of his elders in entering. But 
if it could be arranged, the young man after entering, 
crowded over next to the dividing rail on the other side 
of which, by a previous understanding, sat hie girl. If 
this could not be brought about they consoled themselves 



A Sunday's Program 179 

bj the prospect of the long buggy ride — unnecessarily 
long, as it often happened — in store for them after 
church was out; a buggy ride that brought her to her 
parents' door to be called for later for the afternoon 
singing school, or — in case of protracted meeting, for 
the night preaching. But these protracted meetings 
occurred but rarely, and usually the morning sermon 
ended the religious services for the day, and — as for 
that — for the entire week. 

So after the benediction the people mingled together 
in front of the church for fifteen or twenty minutes, in 
which time Hiram passed the time o'day with George, 
and Becky asked about Martha's new baby. Then the 
congregation finally broke up and the visiting groups 
were directed to follow the buggy of their host to his 
home. Here was enacted a busy scene. The women 
immediately donned gingham aprons, and while some 
pared apples or peeled potatoes, others set the table, and 
helped with the cooking. Of course, all niaTinor of 
baking had been done the Saturday befor^ but all hot 
dishes had to be prepared on the spot. 

While these preparations were going on in the house, 
the men with coats removed, were busily engaged in un- 
hitching and caring for the horses. This was the signal 
for us boys to fling aside our cumbersome coats, cast off 
our shoes, and with the collars of our shirt waists wide 
open, and legs bared to the knees, begin our afternoon 
adventures. We knew from experience it would be well 
in the afternoon before we could eat ; for after our elders 
had finished their dinner and the table set again for 



180 The Swamps 

us the shadows would be falling far to the east. So 
grabbing an apple or begging a piece of bread and butter 
from our busy mothers we sallied forth to the orchard, 
the creek, the fields or the woods bent upon any ad- 
venture that chanced to come our way. 

For me the creek offered the greatest attraction when 
visiting in the Hills, for in the Swamps no natural water 
courses ran — the Big Ditch being constructed by the 
hand of man — and this form of diversion always strongly 
appealed to me. True, in midsummer these wadies or 
partly dried up gullies contained but little water, but 
what pools remained were deeper and fraught with 
greater possibilities in the way of finding fish and frogs 
than the smaller and shallower pools of our Big Ditch. 
To wade in these pools up to my knees made the chills 
of excitement fairly tumble down my back. 

The orchard, too, was always pleasant. Especially 
uncle George Rudolph's orchard — "Old uncle George," 
he was called in contradistinction to George, my father — 
for uncle George was one of the first settlers in the Hills 
and his orchard planted half a century ago was now 
hoary with age though it generally hung rich in tempting 
fruit. Here we stuffed and stuifed, so that when called 
to dinner we Avere in no condition to do justice to the 
meal. Then, too, uncle George's barn was, to my childish 
eyes, one of the seven wonders of the world. It was 
larger and more pretentious than his house, which in 
itself was no cause for comment, since all the barns 
were bigger than the dwellings ; but because it was many 
times larger than his house, it was, by common consent, 



A Sunday's Program 181 

given the pride of place of all the barns in the 
community. 

In this barn we played and climbed over the hay to 
the topmost beams, and frequently received for our 
recklessness many a rough tumble and painful bump. 

And how these excursions stand out in my mind ! 
These Sunday afternoons when with my cousins — first, 
second, third and so on to infinity, some older, some 
younger than myself — I roamed the woods and fields, 
dug mice from their dens, chased chipmunks and 
squirrels, birds-nested, climbed to a flicker's hole in the 
side of an old dead tree, or routed out a gray squirrel 
from his summer nest in the top of an oak; fished for 
minnows with pins bent for hooks in the pools of the 
dried-up streams, and devised a hundred other engross- 
ing ways of employing the all too short afternoons. 

And so these Sundays passed. Late in the afternoon 
old Fan would be brought out from the stable, watered 
and hitched to the buggy. After arranging for the next 
Sunday's feast and frolic we would head for home, a 
long dusty drive that brought us at twilight, if our 
start had not been unduly delayed, in front of the barn- 
yard gate. Often by the light of the tallow-candle 
lantern the chores — the milking, feeding, watering — had 
to be done. And then tired and sleepy I would be 
bundled off to bed— to dream of the adventures of the 
day. 



CHAPTER XV 
Pastimes in the Swamps 

Pastimes, in the usual acceptation of the term, was not 
a word that could be properly placed in the vocabulary 
of the Swamps. Whatever was the nature of the 
activities of those early days, they always aimed, as their 
ultimate object, to contribute some important item to 
existence. If a certain kind of work carried with it an 
element of sport or recreation, this might under an 
elastic classification be called a pastime. Hunting 
could be placed under this liberal list though this 
pastime was seldom indulged in by the early settlers 
except to supply the larder. This was especially true 
of my father who never hunted big game through the 
mere love of it, though few pioneers were a better shot 
or a more expert hunter than he. 

There was one kind of hunting, however, that always 
proved to him most absorbing. That was the taking of 
wild turkeys. My mother used to declare he would get 
up at any time of the night, if he knew of a turkey roost, 
and sit patiently for hours in the neighborhood of the 
turkeys, waiting till it grew light enough to shoot. 
During the period of my own early childhood wild tur- 
keys could still be found in the swamps, and I can 
clearly remember seeing my father come trudging up the 
lane in the early morning from the direction of the Big 
Woods with a magnificent bronzed gobbler slung over 
one shoulder, and with Long Tom across the other. I 



184 The Swamps 

don't know how much these great gobblers weighed, but 
on more than one occasion I remember seeing one of 
these beautiful birds lying on the ground at the back 
door, and it seemed to me to be some enormous, 
prehistoric product that belonged to some former age 
of feathered loveliness. How beautifully those bronzed 
pinions lay in a lacelike pattern over back and breast 
and neck ! How they caught up the rays of the 
morning sun and reflected the palpitating sheen in all 
the scintillating colors of the rainbow ! 

These birds were not only beautiful, but useful as 
well; for a week of delicious meat lay enfolded within 
those gilded feathers. I remember this part, too — the 
crisp brown carcass as it made its first appearance on 
the family board and the taste of the first tender cuts 
of juicy meat. And then as the week wore on the 
carcass took on a different aspect, the "stuffing" 
seasoned with onion juice and savory herbs, gradually 
disappeared from the huge cavern inside the bird's bony 
framework, the last tidbits of meat were picked from 
the bones and, then finally two days of tasty, thick soup, 
the very marrow and essence of the turkey. 

These wild turkeys were mainly to be found in the 
Big Woods, though they foraged for grain in the nearby 
fields. After a light snowfall in early winter their 
tracks could often be seen about the shocks of corn 
where their visits were further confirmed by the bare 
cobs from which they had shelled most of the corn. But 
it was next to impossible to get a shot at them while they 
were feeding in the open, so well picketed was the flock. 



Pastimes in the Swamps 185 

Usually a sharp-eyed gobbler stood on guard while the 
remainder of the family partook of their meal of maize. 
So alert was the watchful sentinel that one's approach 
would be announced as soon as he appeared in sight, 
when with a tremendous whir the whole flock would take 
to the air and be away to the woods. 

My father's method of getting wild turkeys was first 
to locate their roost, and then before daylight to ap- 
proach the neighborhood where the birds were perched 
and conceal himself until dawn. With the first streaks 
of gray in the east he would begin calling them. This 
was done by the aid of a turkey's thigh bone that had 
been shorn of its end joints or enlargements, and then 
hollowed out into a tube. By placing the end of this 
against his lips, after the manner of a cornet player, my 
father could very accurately imitate the call of the 
turkey hen. So perfect was his call that any gobbler 
within sound of it would generally be completely 
deceived and promptly accept the challenge and make 
at once in the direction of this Lorelei of the woods. 

Tense moments marked the break of day, for then 
my father prepared to sound forth the first notes of the 
lovelorn hen. At once the gobbler seeking adventure 
would straighten up from the limb on which he had 
passed a pleasant night and answer with a vigorous 
gobble. Again would come the languishing tones of the 
synthetic hen. By the second or third call the gobbler 
would have located the direction of the sound, where- 
upon he began making preparations to keep the tryst. 

All the while my father would keep up the seductive 



186 The Swamps 

invitation. And each call would be answered by a 
prompt, "Coming, coming, coming," from the gobbler. 
These were exciting moments — moments when the gob- 
bler might at any instant start to fly from his perch to 
some point that seemed to him to be nearest the hidden 
hen. Where the gobbler would alight meant much to 
the watcher. Sometimes the male bird would be able to 
locate the spot from whence the call proceeded so ac- 
curately that he would land almost on top of the con- 
cealed hunter. This would, of course, prove disastrous, 
for the bird would no sooner discover the impostor than 
he would be up and away before the watcher could even 
lift his gun. At other times intervening brush and trees 
would make it impossible to get an unobstructed shot. 
Long Tom could not be handled as readily and handily 
as a modern gun. Its six foot length had to be man- 
euvered among the brush into position and trained on the 
bird. All this took time and careful manipulation. 
Many a gobbler after being almost within the hunter's 
grasp had taken fright and escaped. It was a job re- 
quiring great care and skill. 

But once the bird came within range, the hammer 
was drawn back, the hair trigger carefully adjusted, a 
bead was drawn on the gobbler, and the sharp "ping" of 
Long Tom usually meant another turkey for the table. 

Spotting bee-trees also fell into this class of useful 
and profitable Swamp pastimes. Wild bees were 
plentiful in the Swamps. They found an abundant 
supply of honey in the wild flowers that grew luxuri- 
antly in the moist, rich soil of this low-lying laud. 



Pastimes ix thk Swamps 187 

These bees stored their honey in hollow trees and 
hunting bee trees became a profitable and fascinating 
game with the early settlers. The means employed by 
the bee-tree hunter were primitive but fairly effective, 
the principle being that of following the bee's flight to 
the hive. This involved some patience, for the course 
of the bee could be kept within the field of vision for 
only a few seconds. 

N'ow it is wtII known that the traditional destiny 
of the w^orking bee is to collect and store away honey. 
Then it may reasonably be inferred that once the 
honey bee comes upon something of a saccharine nature 
its interest is immediately aroused. It is potential 
honey and by an instinct born of a long inheritance the 
bee immediately sets about conveying it to the central 
colony. Upon this characteristic the pioneer bee hunter 
relied for his success in tracing the bee to its home. If 
honey is available this is used as a lure for the bee ; but 
in its absence any sweet substance may be substituted. 

During his first autumn in the Swamps my father 
located one of these bee trees, and found it filled with 
clear honey of an excellent quality. For bait he used 
sorghum molasses made from sorghum cane which at 
that time, along with maple syrup, provided for the 
early settlers the sole source of sweetening. Taking a 
saucer of this molasses he set it down where the bees 
were most numerous. In a short time they had 
discovered it, and at once began carrying it to the home 
hive. My father's business now was to note the 
direction the bees took after loading up with the 



188 The Swamps 

sorghum. Then he would move the saucer further 
along the line of flight to a point where the bees dis- 
appeared from the limit of vision. Again the bees came 
and again he noted the direction and moved the molasses 
accordingly. At length he reached a point where the 
bees no longer followed this line but reversed their 
course. Then carefully moving back the bait, a short 
distance at a time, he finally located a spot where the 
bees ascended in a spiral direction up among the trees. 
He was now in the immediate vicinity of the hive, and 
taking up a position where the light afforded good 
visibility he at last followed them to a tall maple where 
he saw them enter a knothole about half way up the 
trunk. This hole led into the hollow interior. 

The rest was easy. He marked the tree and when 
the chill weather in the late Fall numbed the bees, he 
chopped it down and extracted the honey. Old bee trees 
that had been occupied by a thrifty colony for some 
time often contained an amount of honey sufficient to 
supply these early pioneer families with sweetening for 
almost an entire year. 

Another side employment that might properly be 
classed as pickup work, or an evening pastime, was 
basket making. To build a pleasing and useful basket 
is no mean art. The practice of making their own 
baskets continued in the Swamps long after the settlers 
could buy the machine-made articles in the open market. 
These commercial baskets, though cheap, never took the 
place of those made by hand. And the reason was not 
far to seek, for one homemade basket would outlast a 



Pastimes ix the Swamps 189 

dozen of those fashioned in the faetory. In later years 
I often watehed my father, then a man in middle 
life, on winter evenings sitting alongside his material, 
deftly weaving these useful eontainers. From a bundle 
of pliable ribbons split from a clear, tough piece of 
white oak he selected his woof and wove them around 
a warp of hickory withes, an art acquired by the early 
settlers as easily and naturally as they learned to hunt 
and trap and master the mysteries of woodcraft. 

By the same token the women of those days were 
with scarcely an exception expert weavers of various 
fabrics — of homespun, of carpets, of rugs and other 
articles of a textile nature. But by common consent 
basket making was relegated to the men — an occupation 
that most men of the times readily took to; for, in the 
absence of books and social diversions their winter 
evenings hung heavily on their hands. To employ this 
idle time they resorted to basket making. 

Some of these baskets were woven with wooden 
ribbons that had previously been stained with vegetable 
dyes. With these various colored strips many attractive 
designs were worked into the body of the basket. These 
baskets were not only ornamental but useful, and some 
of them may still be found as prized heirlooms, in the 
possession of families whose ancestors were Swamp 
pioneers. 

Because of weather conditions there were days on the 
farm when no outside work could be done. And on rare 
occasions, because of lack of material or some other good 
and sufficient reason, there was nothing to be done 



190 The Swamps 

inside. I always hailed these rare combinations with 
supreme delight, for it meant for me a day with Jack 
Kling; a day with none of the usual demands upon the 
old trapper's time ; a redletter day when in the workshop 
or wood shed he would employ the hours in building for 
me the most ingenious traps, deadfalls and snares that 
ever enraptured a boy's imagination. During the 
progress of the work he would explain how to use them, 
making interesting observations on the ways of wild 
creatures and intersperse his remarks with an occasional 
recital of some experience that befell him in the old 
trapper days. I can see him now with his jolly, round 
face rippling up into his bald pate as he labored 
diligently and perspired copiously over some contraption 
that was destined to bring havoc to innumerable 
squirrels, rabbits or coons. 

Jack knew the wild folks intimately, and I have 
often marveled at his ingenious use of this knowledge 
when planning their capture. He knew just where to 
place the "chimney" trap for quails, to set the deadfalls 
for squirrels, and locate the box trap for rabbits. And 
the bait, too; he seemed to know by instinct just what 
sort of a titbit at any given time would prove the 
most tempting to the quarry. Jack was a born trapper 
and the lure never left him. 

Considerations, other than trapping for pastime or 
for the table, frequently led to the dispatching of various 
farmstead enemies. Certain beasts proved to be pests 
and had to be killed. They destroyed fruit and grain, 
and often injured our property. Against rats and mice 



Pastimes in the Swamps 191 

and skunks and weasels we waged constant war. A few 
birds, too, we regarded as foes to our husbandry. 
Especially woodpeckers. 

Orchards throve but ill in the Swamps, and every 
tree that survived and bore fruit was precious. Cherries 
did fairly well. We loved cherries; so did the wood- 
peckers. It was always a question as to who got the 
most of the cherries — my mother or the woodpeckers. 
Xow the family sympathies were always with my 
mother; for in her hands the cherry was miraculously 
transformed from the food of mortals to the dainties of 
the gods. Cherry pie? Never. It was ambrosia. 
Cherry cobbler covered with my mother's "dip"? Never 
could that be described except in allegory. It was 
essentially spiritual; it approached soul substance; that 
sublimated substance that a healthy boy's appetite 
ennobles to the realm of gastronomic glory. 

And so when the woodpecker sat about on nearby 
perches waiting for the first blush to appear on the 
maturing cherries, my mother, and all of us, became 
greatly excited. We tried covering up the trees with 
netting, especially one favorite tree whose fruit drew 
its exquisite flavoring from nature's most delicate 
extracts. But to no purpose. The woodpeckers with 
their steel-like beaks tore it to shreds. 

Then Jack Kling, one evening after work, looked up 
at the tree and thoughtfully passed his fingers through 
that thin lambrequin of hair that fringed the base of 
his billiard-ball head. We held our breaths. When 
Jack took on that thoughtful gesture inspiration was 



192 The Swamps 

hovering about his bald head. We waited expectantly 
for the oracular pronouncement, xlt length it came. 

"Them pesky birds won't leave a blessed cherry get 
ripe," he began. That was mere commonplace. We 
all knew that. I told him so, but asked him how it 
could be helped? "I once killed a sapsucker acci- 
dentally," he continued utterly ignoring my question. 
"It was climbing up a little sapling. I was clearing 
away the undergrowth down by the Big Ditch, and when 
it come the turn of this sapling to be cut down I struck 
it with the ax and the sapsucker come tumbling to the 
ground with the first blow. I never knowed how I done 
it, but I began to think. Then I struck the slender sap- 
ling another blow and watched the top. I noticed it give 
a slap in the direction of the blow. That must have 
killed the bird; leastwise stunned it, for when I was 
handling it, it come to again and flew away." Then 
scratching his head again he continued; "I have an 
idee; won't do no harm to try it out." And without 
another word, though it was getting dark, he grabbed 
the ax and jumped over the fence into the edge of the 
woods. In a few minutes he returned bearing on his 
shoulder a long, lithe hickory sapling shorn of its 
branches and chopped off near the top. 

"Gret the spade," he commanded. I brought it from 
the tool house. "And the lantern." This was brought. 
I watched him eagerly while I held the lantern. At the 
base of the cherry tree he dug a hole about two feet deep. 
Into this he set the pole. Then he firmly tamped the 
earth back again around the pole. The slender willowy 



Pa-STIMES IX THK SwAMPS 19o 

sapling when he had finished the tamping was as firmly 
established in the ground as if it had grown there. 
Stepping from under the branches I saw the pole over- 
topped the cherry tree by about four feet. Jack sur- 
veyed his work with obvious satisfaction. 

"I*^ow," said he, "I'm going home. I'll be up early in 
the morning to try it out before going to work." Jack 
then trudged down the lane in the gathering gloom to 
his cabin that stood on the lower part of our farm. I 
half guessed Jack's plan and was all expectancy in 
the morning. 

Jack was on hand bright and early. So were the 
woodpeckers. 

"Come under the tree and keep still," Jack directed, 
as he picked up the ax where he dropped it the night 
before and crept under the low branches of my mother's 
favorite cherry. The birds were tame and if they saw 
us they gave us no heed. With a scream of delight a 
brilliant red head bellied up against the to[> of the pole. 
The bird seemed overjoyed, for here was a specially 
erected perch on which he could sit and, at close range, 
pick out the choicest cherries. "Which side is he on ?" 
Jack whispered. I sighted along the pole and then told 
Jack he was on the side next the tree. Jack carefully 
drew back the ax and on the same side gave the pole a 
resounding whack. To my utter surprise the woodpeck- 
er came tumbling to the ground about fifteen feet away. 

"Pick him up,'^ Jack urged. I ran out from und»'r 
the tree and grabbed the wood|)ecker. "Don't let him 
get away," Jack warned. 



194 The Swamps 

"Get away?" I answered in surprise, "He*s dead; 
how can he get away ?" 

"Don't fool yourself," Jack rejoined. "He's only 
got the wind knocked out of him ; if you don't hold him 
tight he'll fly away. He'll be as fit as a fiddle in a few 
minutes." Jack was right. Even as he spoke the wood- 
pecker was showing signs of life. In a little while 
longer he was struggling to be free. 

"What'd I tell you?" said Jack, "Wring his neck 
before he gets away." I did. "One less red-headed 
thief," Jack mused as the quivering bird lay on the 
ground beside us. "^ow try the next one yourself," said 
Jack handing me the ax. All excited I took it. 
"There's one on the pole now," Jack guessed. We heard 
a scratching sound as the wood-pecker landed and 
clasped the bark with his claws. I looked and noted the 
side of the pole to which the bird was clinging. "Give 
it a good one," Jack urged as I drew back the ax. But 
I failed to bring down my bird. Though stunned it 
fluttered away. "N'ot enough elbow grease," Jack 
explained. "Hit her square and hard." ISTow though I 
was young I was strong as an ox. My father often 
said I could do a man's work at six, which, of course, 
was an exaggeration. But I was a husky boy and when 
the next woodpecker lighted on the pole I put all my 
strength into the blow and the redhead fell with a thud 
in the grass. I exulted and Jack praised me. 

When breakfast was announced I could scarcely quit 
the new-found pastime. Jack, too, was loath to leave 



Pastimes in the Swamps 193 

the sport, and followed my father reluctantly to the 
field. Father allowed me to remain at the house and 
kill woodpeckers. At noon I had bagged twenty. And 
not a cherry stolen. At night I had scored forty-five 
redheads. 

The cherries ripened rapidly. In three days — three 
days of watching and killing — the cherries were 
ready to gather; and we had fresh pies and cobbler for 
two weeks, and enough cherries canned to last us all 
winter. 

I have never seen this poling of woodpeckers done 
elsewhere ; I have often wondered if the idea was origi- 
nal with Jack. 



CHAPTER XVI 

My First Fight 

I MAKE no pretence at chronological accuracy in setting 
down these episodes of my boyhood days. The 
sequence of these happenings is far more vague than are 
the events themselves. For that reason I find it diffi- 
cult for me even to guess at my age with reasonable 
exactness when I fought with Charley WoodhuU. I 
only know I was making a pretence of going to school 
at Rushville, and that I was in the Big Room. But the 
fight itself! ah, that looms large and legible across the 
lustrous page of time. 

These fights among the boys of the Big Room were 
weekly occurrences. Usually the combatants were 
matched as evenly as possible though a slight discrepancy 
in strength and size was never allowed to prevent a fight 
from taking place. Of course an evenly matched fight 
was more thrilling; but rather than have no fight at all 
we put up with a one-sided contest. This naturally 
worked a hardship on the weaker member of the team, 
though once in a great while these " Inindn'd-to-oiu' 
shots" showed unexpected speed and skill when the 
contest, because of its element of surprise, became un- 
usually absorbing. 

My fight with Charley Woodhull was out of the line 
of the ordinary because it was to be a three-cornrnd 
contest. If one of the corners crumbled early In tho 



198 The Swamps 

bout it added to, rather than diminished the interest in 
the fight. 

Charley Woodhull was a physical prodigy. 'None 
dared tackle him single handed. For this reason he 
had long escaped his ^'turn" in the ring. I^ow there was 
nothing innately wrong with Charley, but because of the 
consciousness that he was the biggest and strongest boy 
in school he had developed an exaggerated superiority 
complex which, at this semi-savage age, played a too 
prominent part in his attitude toward society. He 
lorded it over us in the most obnoxious manner. We 
felt that if Charley could be disciplined the morale of the 
school would be greatly improved. Of course Charley 
was perfectly willing to fight, but we could find no one 
who would accept his challenge. Here was the difficulty. 

And all the while Charley Woodhull was becoming 
more and more impressed with his power. Something 
had to be done. The heel of the tyrant was growing 
heavier and heavier upon our servile necks. 

Finally one noon recess I took up the matter with 
a group of the oppressed — Charley lived in the village 
and was at lunch — and we all agreed that unless this 
bully was soon subdued life in his presence would become 
intolerable. But how could we tame him; how could 
we bring about his humiliation ? That was the question. 
Then an idea occurred to me and I immediately 
advanced it. "Say, fellers," I began, "you all know 
Charley is twice as strong as any of us — what's the 
matter with two of us fighting him?" 

The idea caught on at once and every boy thought 



My First Fight 199 

that here was the means of bringing the bully low. 
A good drubbing would make him decent ; he was drunk 
with power. That being unanimously adopted the 
next question was the selection of his opponents. Ah, 
that was a question I had not thought of, but that now 
presented to me a new and very personal angle. I had 
an uncomfortable presentiment that being the protagon- 
ist of the proposition I would naturally be selected as 
one of Charley's opponents. I didn't give much thought 
to mental telepathy in those days, but it must have 
existed nevertheless, for scarcely had the idea entered 
my mind when the boys unanimously elected me to the 
honor of one of the team to bear the brunt of Charley's 
sledge hammer fists. To me my proposition had proved 
a boomerang, and I could already feel the stunning effect 
of its returning blows. My heart was filled with black 
despair. But only for a moment. The event was not 
yet at hand, and why cross one's bridges before coming 
to them? I consented with labored unconcern. 

l^ow who would be my team mate ? I was given the 
privilege of selecting whom I chose. I began to look 
the boys over. Each face winced as it came under my 
close scrutiny. I finally settled on my cousin Ezra — 
Ezra Rudolph. Ezra was game and consented to share 
with me the honor of being pummeled to a pulp by 
Charley Woodhull. Ezra was not quite as solid as 1, 
but he was very agile and quick. He could outrun me, 
and in wrestling I found it difficult to hold him down. 
I thought he might act the part of the swift swallow in 
harassing the hawk, while I could register my heavier 



200 The Swamps 

blows. We meant to keep the arrangement from 
Charley until the day of the battle; we imagined if 
Charley knew of our doubling up on him he might take 
it into his head to wallop us singly beforehand. But 
to keep news of this tremendous importance from 
reaching him was about as futile as to attempt to keep 
water from passing through a sieve. Before he had 
been on the school ground five minutes, after return- 
ing from his lunch, he knew the whole scheme. When 
he had fully acquainted himself with the plan he took 
occasion to pass very near to where I was standing. He 
looked at me with an expression of withering scorn, and 
I shrank under his ominous gaze. I could already feel 
the deadly thud of his massive fists as they fell upon my 
groggy head. 

!N'ow that he already knew, I could have no peace 
until the ordeal was over. ^NTothing could be gained by 
delay. I saw Ezra at the afternoon recess and we 
decided to take the offensive and force the issue. I 
argued that there was no time like the present time, and 
insisted that the battle take place at once — on that very 
day after school. Ezra reluctantly consented and soon 
every boy in school knew we were going to try con- 
clusions with Charley immediately after school. 
During that last afternoon hour I don't believe there 
was much serious study; I know my mind was any- 
where but on my lessons. 

Finally we were dismissed, and Ezra and I hastened 
to the usual battleground which by common consent was 
a graveled arena in front of Mr. Hallrand's store and 



My Fikst FniiiT 201 

by the side of the railroad. With my heart beating 
like a trip hammer I waited with Ezra for Charley's 
eonlident and leisurely approaeh. His face was 
wreathed in a sinister smile. 

^*Well," he said as he came up, ^^you fellers ready T' 
I answered with a blow that landed on his cheek. I 
think Charley was not expecting such an informal 
beginning; he seemed a little taken V>ack, and the con- 
fident smile vanished. Ezra followed my lead with a 
punch on the other cheek. Charley clenched his fists 
and got into action at once. He first directed his 
attention to Ezra, and while I continued to pummel 
him from my corner he took the punishment without 
turning to me. Two or three well aimed blows sent 
Ezra groggy and reeling across the gravelled arena. 
His nose was bleeding profusely and I was wondering 
how soon he would come back. In the meantime 
Charley turned to me. I parried and fought back with 
vigor but in a short time my face was covered with 
blood. Charley was going strong and with the exception 
of a few insignificant scratches he bore no marks of 
the battle. I turned to my cousin expecting him to 
come to my relief, but to my utter amazement I saw 
him start to run up the railroad in the direction of his 
home. My heart sank to my boots. I was lost. 

Xow^ it never occurred to me that ray legs were as 
useful as were Ezra's, and that if called upon, they 
would carry me out of the danger zone, too. I did not 
think of this means of escape; I could only visualize 
my utter annihilation. I was hopelessly doomed. 



202 The Swamps 

Then the primitive instinct of self preservation 
arose in my breast and I began to cast about me for 
aid in any form that I could command. In those days 
the rails of the railroad were fastened together by means 
of a piece of timber bolted to the iron on each side of 
the joint. One of these bolts chanced to be lying loose 
at my feet. It was about six inches long and was fitted 
at one end with a head and with a, nut at the other. 
Between the blows I stooped and grasped this bolt. It 
just fitted my fist leaving at either end an inch or more 
of iron. This may not have been according to the 
rules of the ring but it suited my purpose of self 
preservation. My flesh-and-blood partner had failed 
me; I needed an iron friend. I found this friend just 
in time, for I was getting a terrific beating. The blood 
was blinding me. With my new weapon I struck out 
wildly. Some of the blows Charley parried, but some 
of them reached his face. And with telling effect. 
Every time my mailed fist struck him blood flowed. 
Charley now was as bloody as myself. Only a few 
boys remained by the ring side; those who had become 
convinced that murder was being committed rushed 
home. They refused to qualify as material witnesses 
to the tragedy. 

Still we struggled on. [N'either of us could see 
clearly through the streaming blood. Our eyes began 
to swell. We staggered about the gravelled space like 
drunken sailors. Only now and then our blows went 
home. I am not sure how the bloody battle would have 
ended had not one of the few remaining boys rushed 



My First Fight 203 

iuto Mr. Hallraiid's store aud declared that we were 
killing each other. Now Mr. Hallrand knew we boys 
were in the habit of having these scraps in front of 
his store, but he did not take them seriously — considered 
them only harmless escapes for the surplus vitality and 
energy of youth. Heretofore he had sometimes 
observed them but without interference. Usually after 
a few harmless punches the one or the other was 
declared the winner and the contest came to a close. 
The physical damage of the combat was negligible and 
everybody went home satisfied with the entertainment. 
But there was something so tragic in the face of 
the boy who now implored him to interfere that Mr. 
Hallrand stopped weighing out and tying up his pound 
packages of brown sugar, and followed the boy through 
the door to where w^e were "killing each other." Mr. 
Hallrand must have been duly impressed with the 
spectacle. In after years he told me on more than 
one occasion that he was utterly shocked as he beheld 
Charley and me in this bloody boyish battle. Our 
faces, our clothing, our fists were smeared with blood. 
Even the gravel at our feet showed dark splotches of 
blood. Our eyes were swollen, our movements unsteady 
and staggering. And yet we wobbled together with 
w^hat strength we had left and continued the combat. 
As for myself I remember only the obsessing impulse 
to defend myself and wear down my opponent in what- 
soever manner I could command. I was unconscious 
of all else — just to keep on striking at Charley's head 
with my blood-besmeared bolt; striking weakly now 



204 The Swamps 

and blindly, but striking, striking with all my waning 
strength. I was also conscious through it all of the 
sickening blows from the slippery fists that in some 
manner came from the vague bulk that weaved and 
wobbled before my fast closing eyes. I was only 
conscious of his presence now in a dully uncertain way 
and more dead than alive I was taking my punishment 
with a numbing hopelessness born of desperation and 
despair. We were both ready to drop from sheer 
exhaustion. 

As soon as Mr. Hallrand recovered from his shock 
and amazement he rushed between us. His voice 
seemed to reach me from the end of the corridors of 
Time. It sounded strange and hollow to my bruised 
and battered ears. And as through a gathering gloom 
I could just make out the outlines of his bulky body. 
To my blood-shot eyes it appeared distorted and 
grotesque; it seemed to float like an enormous balloon 
before me. I could see Charley, too, a fantastic 
semblance to a human Thing weaving in and out of 
my line of vision. There was a mist settling over 
my senses. It seemed to be growing dark. 

Then I felt something cold against my face, and 
I revived sufficiently to discover that I was sitting on 
the platform in front of the store, and that some one 
was bathing my face. 

In the meantime Charley^s father had been notified 
of the predicament of his son, and he at once came to 
the scene of conflict. It seems Charley's face and head 
had been cut with my iron bolt to such an extent that 



My First Fight 205 

i>r. B. D. had to be called to stitch up half a dozen 
gashes. 

After the blood had been removed from my face 
Mr. Hallrand placed me in charge of another boy 
who lived near my home, and he took me by the arm 
and led me away. My eyes were now almost completely 
closed, and I could see my way but indistinctly. I had 
been fearfully battered and bruised, but not seriously 
cut. The bleeding had stopped, but my face had now 
swelled to grotesque proportions. Before I reached 
my home 1 had to hold my eyelids apart with my 
thumb and finger in order to make my way along the 
road. 

In the meantime a new terror had arisen ; what 
would be my punishment at home? The thought of 
another thrashing made me sick at heart. 1 almost 
collapsed as I envisaged that hickory rod descending 
upon my tortured body. Life with this added suffering 
in prospect had lost its lure. I could have given up the 
ghost. I was ready to die and have it all over with. 

My mother was the first to meet me. Her face must 
have borne an expression of horror. 1 was spared seeing 
it. The room was dark to me; 1 could not even make 
out the furniture. My mother gave a single exclama- 
tion of surprise and then, as was her wont, she was 
in complete command of herself. 

In the darkness I was resigned to my fate. With 
utter indifference I awaited my doom. But instead of 
upbraiding me my mother led me to the bedroom and 
helped me remove my blood-spattered clothing. Then 



206 The Swamps 

she assisted me to the bed. Gentleness? Solicitude? 
I was overwhelmed. My muddled mind reverted to 
the time when I confessed to the pilfering of old 
Biddie's eggs, and I experienced again the sacrament 
of my mother's love. I had the urge to cry, to break 
down completely, but the salt tears made my bruised 
eyes and battered face smart so acutely that involun- 
tarily the flood gates closed. Only once did my mother 
ask me the reason for my wrecked condition, and I 
answered in anguish: "Charley WoodhuU and me — we 
had a fight." Never again did she refer to the subject. 
She applied hot towels to my face ; she made me a bowl 
of gruel and in excruciating pain I managed to swallow 
it. 

Then I heard the footsteps of my father outside. 
Once more my courage sank to the vanishing point. 
I could depend upon the mercy of my mother. But 
what about father ? He had warned me about fighting. 
I refused to think. 

My mother hurriedly left the room. I could hear 
her telling my father of my predicament. There were 
vigorous words exchanged. "He's had enough," I heard 
my mother say. 

Then father came into the room where I lay on 
the bed. Inwardly I groaned. I couldn't see him; I 
couldn't see anything. My eyes were now completely 
closed. But I heard him stop by the side of the bed. 
I fancy my mother stood nearby. All was silent. For 
the moment my mental anguish dulled my physical 
suffering. Then my father left the room. 



My First Fight 207 

Sometime in that hectic night I fell asleep. But 
what a sleep! It was a hideous nightmare. I was in 
the depths of the Inferno. Through an endless eternity 
devils, imps and demons danced about my pillow and 
with red hot pitchforks prodded my swollen and pain- 
racked head. Several times during the night I was 
conscious that my mother was by my side. 

Then I heard the roosters crowing and I could 
partially open my eyes. I could just see enough to 
make out that it was growing light. My mother came 
in with some dainties on a big plate. I could eat with 
some comfort. The swelling had noticeably gone down. 
Later my father came in. Again he was silent, but 
this time he stooped and patted me on tjie shoulder. 
Then he went to work. For him this was a tremendous 
demonstration of affection. I pondered it long. I had 
never loved my father so much. 

I attempted to get up, but every joint protested in 
excruciating pain. I remained where I was. My little 
brother, Clarkson came in and vehemently swore, in his 
sputtering way, that when he grew to be a man he 
would utterly annihilate Charley Woodhull — would 
grind him like a worm under his heel. I warmed 
towards Clarkson as I had never done before. I 
promised to give him a larger part in my games and 
pastimes. Life was beginning to look more rosy. I 
was assuming the role of a hero, and I was deriving a 
certain amount of pleasure from it. 

In the afternoon I left the bed. Youth was again 
asserting itself. My face though less swollen was dis- 



208 The Swamps 

colored beyond belief. But I could walk and I 
wondered if I would be compelled to go to school on 
the morrow. But I wasn^t. My father took me to 
the field with him the next morning; and he was 
particularly considerate of me. Once only did he refer 
to the fight. I told him how it happened and how Ezra 
turned tail and left me alone. He frowned at this. 
But when I related the remainder of the contest his 
face glowed with pride. 

"You're too stiff to do that," he warned as I 
attempted to help carry some rails to the fence he was 
repairing. "Sit down on that stump and rest." 

Here was a real father and I could have embraced 
him. But I didn't. We seldom showed our innermost 
feelings. 

I didn't return to school that week. J^either did 
Charley Woodhull. Monday morning we met. I 
remember that meeting very well. We eyed each other 
for a moment. Then Charley came over to me and 
took me by the hand. "Say, Sheridan, let's have a 
game of crack the whip, and you take the head of the 
line this time." Our eternal friendship had been 
sealed in blood. 



CHAPTER XVII 

Coon Hunting 

Coon huntiug! What emotions surge through my 
breast when I recall these delectable occasions! Even 
yet I can hear the musical roll of old Sounder's voice as 
it broke forth on the vibrant air of the Autumn night. 
He has struck a trail, and is in full cry. The stars 
of the crisp night shine like coruscating diamonds above 
us. The first light frost of the Fall has tinged the 
maples with splotches of red and gold, but the corn 
alongside the woods is still green, and we can still find 
enough "roasting ears" to go with our broiled chicken 
and baked potatoes which we propose to prepare at the 
foot of the coon tree later on — when old Sounder has 
chased his quarry to cover. 

Then let us up and away, stumbling pell mell, 
through brush and briars, fet<;hing up against fences, 
dropping into ditches, and tripping over fallen trees 
trying to keep up with old Sounder, for he always sets 
a hot pace when he bellows along a fresh coon trail. 

Old Sounder soon grew from the sad-eyed, long- 
eared, awkward little puppy that he was when we 
brought him home from the Hills, into a massive coon 
hound as big as a mastiff and twice as strong. His legs 
were as hard as iron and his body as tough as leather. 
But I never loved old Sounder, as I loved Tip — Tip, 
the inseparable companion of my early childhood days. 
Sounder possessed but one talent — coon hunting. At 



210 The Swamps 

this he had but few equals and no superiors. But when 
not engaged in the chase he was phlegmatic, dull, and 
sluggish. He never took any interest in the family, 
just lay around — slept most of the time — and ate like an 
anaconda. What meals! My mother always looked 
anxious when old Sounder began to show signs of his 
recurring appetite. True, one good meal would always 
last the old hound a full day, sometimes two. But what 
a capacity he had! It was like filling up a barrel. 
There was one redeeming feature, however, about old 
Sounder's eating; he was not fussy. He would eat 
anything — bones, scraps, parings, peelings — just so it 
was bulky and would fill him up. Then he would find 
some quiet corner in the wood house or barn and sleep 
off his gastronomic orgy. He was utterly useless as a 
wat<jh dog: "Let 'em pilfer," he would seem to say. 
"It's no affair of mine, and besides, I'm sleepy." Then 
he would roll his heavy lids over his sad, sunken eyes 
and promptly go to sleep again. 

But when it came to hunting coons at night, old 
Sounder was in his element. It was then he really 
lived ; at other times he merely vegetated. And what a 
coon fighter he was ! And don't get the impression 
that a big he-coon can't put up a good, stiff fight. They 
are vicious and terrible fighters when once cornered. 
Their long, stiletto claws have put more than one good 
dog out of business, their stabs and gashes proving, in 
some cases, all but fatal. A coon fight was always a 
possibility at the end of the hunt. 

So when old Sounder awoke the echoes of the 



Coox HrNTiNu 211 

Autumn night by announcing a hot trail we wore all 
a-quiver with excitement. We could already visualize 
the early morning meal prepared in the woods while 
waiting for dawn and the shake-dowm of the coon after 
the rays of the morning sun had revealed the contents 
of the tree; and later, the spectacular battle with the 
coon. 

I majored in coon hunting in my middle teens after 
I had begun to chum with Charley Simpson and Albert 
Burson, neighbor boys of about my own age. Charley 
Simpson was the only son of widow Simpson who lived 
a little beyond the bend of the road above our house, 
while Albert Burson's home stood just this side of Dan 
Hunt's cabin and about two hundred feet back from the 
road. These two boys were my constant companions 
during my coon hunting days. Charley Simpson was a 
famous climber. He could climb any tree that grew. 
For this reason he was the most valuable member of our 
party, for to him fell the job of climbing the tree and 
shaking out the coon. Albert Burson was rather timid, 
a poor sport but a good al fresco cook. At least we 
thought so at the time, and to him we always entrusted 
the preparation of the chicken, the potatoes, and the 
"roasting ears" of corn, for the nocturnal meal. 

Meantime old Sounder led us a merry chase through 
thicket and copse, along the edge of the corn fields and 
across the Big Ditch into the Big Woods. Now if he 
succeeded in treeing before we got beyond our depth 
into this extensive primeval forest it would be fortunate, 
for at night we always lost our bearings, and even an bl;; 



212 The Swamps 

boys we hesitated to venture too far into this dismal 
domain. On the other hand to tree in the Big Woods 
had this advantage : we could do as we pleased here — 
cut timber, build fires, camp and cook — and there was 
no one to say us nay. This did not apply to certain 
other timber lands owned by the local farmers, for by 
this time trees were beginning to take on a definite value 
and were not to be destroyed by wanton coon hunters. 
More than once have we been driven out of private 
woods by the owner when we had treed one or more 
coons in a valuable oak, or ash, or maple and were 
waiting for daylight to obtain our quarry. Of course 
we never cut the tree unless the coon was in a hole, but 
old Sounder's deep, bass voice carried for miles and 
everybody in the neighborhood knew it, and more than 
one farmer round about had discovered on the morning 
following one of these midnight concerts, a v^aluable 
tree lying prone on the ground, a victim of our vandal 
axes. 

But in the Big Woods all this was different. No 
one knew exactly who owned the Big Woods — only 
vaguely that it belonged to some public official who 
never appeared upon his property, and apparently who 
never concerned himself about its care. The farmers 
round about turned their superfluous cows and pigs and 
sheep into the Big Woods in the spring, and allowed 
them to remain there till fall when a general round-up 
took place. 

Ah, at last old Sounder has changed his deep musical 
roll to the sharp staccato notes of the "tree," and not far 



Coon Hunting 213 

into the woods at that. This suits us exactly, and we 
soon make our way to where the hound is circling the 
base of a big, moss-grown oak. It is but little after 
two o'clock — the hunt started at midnight — and two 
hours to tree is a very creditable record for old Sounder. 
The hound, now that we have reached him, becomes 
calm, for he knows the program as well as we, and after 
we have started a crackling fire consents to lie down 
before it and rest up for the fight that he suspects is 
pretty certain to follow. 

Meanwhile we have sent out our foraging scouts. 
Albert Burson remains at the tree to keep up the fire 
and prepare for the meal. Charley Simpson is dis- 
patched for roasting ears and potatoes, while it falls to 
my lot to secure a chicken. 

We never took chickens from other than our own 
folks, and while our parents knew that we boys were 
in the habit of robbing their hen roosts for these early 
morning meals they could never prove it, and, after all, 
they seemed inclined to be lenient with us. Once father 
mentioned it to me and began to upbraid me. But I 
was ready for him. On more than one occasion he had 
related in my presence his own experience in coon 
hunting when he was a boy at home in the hills. And 
he never failed to stress the feed that always occurred 
sometime during the night. He would chuckle, too, 
when he described how he would sneak back to the homo 
hen roost and "lift" a fat chicken from the perch. This 
made a deep impression on me; it was the most thrilling 
part of the story. Xow this voluntary information 



214 The Swamps 

served me in good stead. I promptly reminded him 
of it. 

"Well, boys will be boys," he concluded rather 
lamely, I thought, and then continued, stimulating 
sternness, "But remember, you are to confine your 
depredations to your own hen roosts; and take turns, 
too, among the boys. Don't take more from one roost 
than another." 

I assured him on this point and he never mentioned 
the subject again. 

In half an hour I was hurrying down the lane 
towards the Big Woods with a nice plump spring 
chicken that had fed peacefully and profitably all 
summer on the fat of the land. Its passing had been 
painless and, of necessity, quiet; its troubles were now 
over as it lay in the majesty of death in my arms. I 
never relished killing a chicken, and after the deed was 
over I had to call up every excuse at my command to 
quiet my qualms of conscience. It was thus as I walked 
down the lane under the quiet stars of the early morning 
with this still warm pullet in my arms. I have often 
wished I didn*t possess this trait, for it has made me 
uncomfortable, not to say acutely unhappy, at times. 
But I reasoned, it's the appointed destiny of all chickens 
and then added the corollary that in the present case the 
deceased had already lived the happiest days of a 
chicken's life, would know none of the pain and priva- 
tion of suffering in the shipper's coop, nor the rigors 
of a coming winter; that, upon the whole, I had 
rendered it a signal service and that the soul of the 



Coon HrxTixo 315 

bird ought to sing my eternal praise in the realm of 
chicken bliss. 

While thus engaged in salving my conscience I noted 
the faint glow above the tree tops that marked the loca- 
tion of Albert's fire. He had been arranging the 
preliminaries for the feast. When I arrived Charley 
had returned with half a dozen roasting ears from a 
late patch of corn of his own growing, and with his 
pockets filled with potatoes from his own garden. The 
corn was still "in the milk" and just right for roasting; 
the potatoes fresh from the hill and in fine condition 
for baking in the ashes under the live coals. 

By the light of the fire we skinned the chicken. 
Great rolls of yellow fat proved how well the bird had 
fared during its short but pleasant life. Albert had 
lighted a flare while Charley and I were away and 
located a nearby pool of water. After being skinned 
and drawn the bird was trussed with green spice wood 
skewers. It was then thoroughly rinsed in the pool 
of water. Meantime the fire had died down to 
a great heap of glowing coals. The roasting ears 
with their husks still on were now buried with the 
washed potatoes under a deep layer of ashes, over which 
we spread a bed of live coals. Next the chicken was 
spitted on a long green hickory whip. Two forked 
sticks were then stuck into the ground, one on either 
side of the fire. Into these forks the stick on which 
the cliicken was transfixed was laid. This brought the 
carcass of the bird directly over the heap of glowing 
coals. Albert, the cook, now took up a position at one 



216 The Swamps 

end of the stick and slowly began to revolve the chicken 
over the red coals. In a short time the fat started to 
drip on the coals. It sputtered and assailed the nostrils 
with the most seductive odor. Even old Sounder turned 
his big sad eyes longingly in the direction of the source 
of the odor. We tried to beguile away the time in 
stimulating talk that would take our thoughts from the 
tempting odor. But to little purpose. We speculated 
about the quarry up the tree and wondered if there 
was but one coon or more. Often coons ran in pairs; 
sometimes more. I remember on one occasion the 
morning light revealed five old ringtails disposed about 
the branches of a tall oak in Ben I^orth's woods. And 
worst of all Charley Simpson had only shaken out two 
when old Ben came snorting through the woods towards 
us with blood in his eye, and we fled precipitately 
leaving three of the coons in the tree. 

Thus we passed the time while tlie carcass on the 
spit gradually turned to a rich brown color and the 
odor grew more and more intoxicating. 

*^*I think it's done, fellers," Albert announced as he 
thrust a sharpened stick into the breast. That suited 
us to a T. **Test the corn and potatoes." 

Charley raked an ear of corn and a potato from the 
ashes. The potatoes were soft and the corn steaming 
in the moisture of its own husk. 

"Potatoes are done," I announced. 

"So is the corn," Charley said. 

"All right, let's eat," said the cook. "Throw some 
brush on the coals for light." 



Coon Hunting 217 

lu a few moments our jack knives were car\'ing the 
bird — a leg to one, a breast to another, a wing to the 
third. The corn was stripped of its shucks, the potatoes 
laid on leaves to cool, and the meal began. 

Does time exaggerate the acuteness of our taste; 
would such a meal at the present time seem tasteless 
and insipid? I cannot say, but as I recall these 
nocturnal feasts served at the foot of the coon tree, in 
my boyhood days, they seem to surpass in deliciousness 
and savor, any gustatory joy that has since fallen to 
my palate. I can see my companions now as they sat 
around the crackling fire. Old Sounder refreshed from 
his run and his appetite whetted by the savory odors 
now stands nearby and with his massive jaws crunches 
the tender bones of the bird as we industriously strip 
them of the flesh and toss them in his direction. The 
dark woods about us stand sharply silhouetted between 
the night beyond and the flame in our midst. Some- 
times we peered into the gloom and would fain make 
out the gleaming eyes of a bear or a wolf. Then some- 
one would relate a story of the days — days, alas, we 
never knew — when our forebears had many a thrilling 
experience with these denizens of the deep forest. 

Thus the time passed till daylight. How anxiously 
we peered into the top of the tree as the first streaks of 
dawn filtered through the branches! We would circle 
round and round as it grew lighter examining with 
microscopic care each shadow that the increasing light 
might later prove to be a coon. These were exciting 
moments. It was a kind of pime now — who would see 



218 The Swamps 

a coon first. I always had sharp eyes. I could see 
farther and make out objects quicker than most boys. 
Charley and Albert knew this and always pooled their 
vision in an effort to beat me. Sometimes they would 
announce confidently that they saw the coon. In reality 
they did not, but took a chance that the vague object 
designated would turn out to be the coon. And once, 
as chance would have it, it did. By previous arrange- 
ment they both declared a certain dark object in the 
top of the tree was the coon. They confessed afterward 
it was merely a guess. But in this case it was a good 
guess and for the time I conceded them the honor of 
discovering the coon first. 

"There's old Ringtail now," I finally announced 
though I was not quite certain that a better light would 
prove me right. 

"Where?" Charley and Albert asked in unison. 

"Right up there lying in the fork of the limbs almost 
in the top of the tree — the forks at the south side of the 

tree." 

"I don't see it," Charley said. 

"It's a bunch of moss," Albert contended. 

"Wait and see," I said, "It's a coon all right." I 
had seen it move and I was now sure of my ground. 

The coming dawn now rapidly lighted up the top of 
the tree. Leaves were still thick, but the morning was 
clear ; visibility was good. 

"By the great horned moon if I don't see another 
one !" 



Coon Htntixcj 219 

This aiinouucement was received with considerable 
skepticism. 

"Yes, you do!" Charley exclaimed sarcastically. 

"Just wait and see; you fellers are owl-eyed in 
daytime." 

"Where is it?" asked Albert. 

"Just above the other one — about six feet — in the 
highest crotch of the tree." 

"By the old gray goose he's right, Charley. I can 
see his eyes; he's looking down at us, and he's almost as 
big as the other one." 

Charley finally saw him. As the light became 
stronger both coons could be plainly seen. 

"What will we do," I asked, "cut the tree or climb?" 
It was a big oak and hard to climb. It was up to 
Charley to say whether he could climb it or not. He 
moved around the tree. He examined the arrangement 
of the limbs carefully. We awaited his decision. 

"An awful job to cut that tree," he finally 
announced. Then after another look at the trunk he 
continued: "It's a big butt, too, and hard to climb." 
He approached the trunk and placed his arms about it. 
They did not half encircle it. Then : "I can climb it if 
we can get a length of grapevine." 

"We'll see if we can find one." 

Albert and I began looking through the nearby 
thicket for a wild grapevine. 

"Here's a good one." Albert finally announced. 
"Is your barlow knife sharp?'' 

"Fairlv." 



220 The Swamps 

"Theu come and cut the vine; mine's as dull as a 
hoe." 

We cut about ten feet of the strong, green vine and 
brought it to Charley who had already pulled off his 
boots and coat. He took one end of the vine in his 
right hand I took the other and moved around the tree 
to Charley's other hand. Charley grasped this end of 
the vine. In this manner he encircled the tree. By 
slipping the section of the vine up along the trunk of 
the tree, then toe-nailing to the rough bark with his 
feet he reached the lowest limb, about twenty feet from 
the ground. Here he rested. 

"Got your knife, Charley?" I asked, for sometimes 
the coon would dispute the possession of the tree in 
which event a knife comes in handy. In answer 
Charley opened his knife and stuck it through his 
gallowses. "It's sharp all right; I never go after a 
coon Avithout a sharp knife. It come in mighty handy 
once. You remember, Sheridan, that old he-coon last 
fall that come after me that night in Eli Charleston's 
woods ?" 

"You bet I do, and there was no fight left in him 
after the stab you gave him. Old Sounder merely 
snuffed at him when he reached the ground, then rolled 
him over with a push of his nose. The coon was already 
practically dead." 

JS'ow that Charley had reached the limbs, he found 
climbing easy. The limbs grew close together and 
Charley ascended them like going up the rungs of a 
ladder. In a little while he was within reach of the 



Coox Hunting 221 

lower coon. But the sullen old Ringtail seemed loath 
to move, only growled as Charley approached. Then 
Charley cut a branch from the oak and prodded the 
coon. With a sudden spring it leaped on Charles's 
back. But not to attack him. It merely used Charley';; 
back as a means of passing down the tree. It was a 
big coon — both were big, and as sometimes happens, 
both were "hes." 

The dislodged coon descended the tree to the lowest 
limb. On this he crawled out till the branch bent 
down towards the ground. But he didn't jump; 
Charley had to descend to the limb. 

Old Sounder was now fully aroused. He didn't 
bark; only waited with tense muscles and an unusual 
brilliancy in his ordinarily dull and listless eyes. I 
think he knew he had a hard fight before him. 

"Don't get out too far on that limb, Charley," I 
warned, "It is not strong; there are dead branches on 
it; it may be partly rotten." I didn't speak too soon, 
for with a loud snap the branch broke and fell to the 
ground. Fortunately Charley was quick enough to 
grab the stub of the broken branch and cling to the 
tree. We gave a sigh of relief when we saw that 
Charley was safe. He reached for the next limb and 
was soon securely seated in the crotch. 

In our anxiety over Charley's safety we had not 
noticed the coon. But old Sounder had, and was now 
engaged in a terrific fight with the big he-coon. The 
coon was still in the branches of the bough that had 
broken and fallen with him to the ground. Because 



222 The Swamps 

of this protection the coon held the advantage over 
the dog. The limb was of considerable size and its 
spread formed a fairly good protection for the coon. 
Sounder could reach in the brush with difficulty. When- 
ever the hound came within range, the ringtail would 
shoot out a paw and rip open the hide of the hound; 
already his long ears were bleeding profusely. 

"Take him, Sounder, take him," I urged, and he 
snarled and lunged viciously into the brush after the 
coon. I patted him and again urged him to rush the 
coon. With one leap he landed squarely on the coon's 
back. For a single instant there was a blur of brush, 
and dog, and leaves, and coon. There was an agonized 
groan. Then the action became less violent, and finally, 
with the coon limply depending from his massive jaws 
old Sounder emerged from the debris and welter of the 
battle. The coon, a mammoth male, lay dead at the 
root of the tree. But at a severe cost to the old hound. 
He was half blinded by his bloody ears. He was deeply 
scratched about the head and shoulders. Albert filled 
his felt hat with water at the pool and with this we 
bathed his wounds thoroughly. At length the bleeding 
stopped. 

But what of the other coon still up the tree? It 
seemed a trifle smaller than the one just dispatched, 
but it was a big coon nevertheless. 

Charley now worked his way to the neighborhood 
of the second coon. It was in the topmost branches 
and seemed greatly excited. Its eyes blazed like balls 
of fire as it moved about from branch to branch. The 



Coon Hintixcj 223 

killing of Lis companion had aroused the remaining 
coon to a state of frenzy. He looked dangerous. 

"Be careful, Charley/' we warned. "That coon 
looks desperate." 

"I know it ; can you hear him growl ?" 

We could and it sounded vicious. 

"Do you think I can make him jump?" 

"Don't know, but be ready with your knife if he 
springs on you." 

Charley was cautious. Several times the enraged 
coon made as if he meant to attack Charley. But 
Charley drew his knife from his gallowses and was 
prepared for him. 

Then the coon sprang to a lower limb almost half 
way down the tree. Here he crouched again in a 
defiant mood. Old Sounder though evidently still 
suffering from his cuts was again duly wrought up for 
the second encounter. His blood-shot eyes gleamed 
with a wicked light. He followed every motion of the 
coon with tense muscles and stiffened tail. As Charley 
descended the tree the coon slowly moved out towards 
the end of the branch. Charley followed. This limb 
was green and tough. It seemed to be safe, and Charley 
approached to within a few feet of the snarling coon. 
Then the coon jumped. Old Sounder was ready for 
him. Xo sooner had he touched ground than the hound 
was upon him. But the coon was quick and for the 
time eluded old Sounder's jaws. He started to run 
and the dog made after him. In a moment the dog 
had overtaken him. The coon made a stand against the 



224 The Swamps 

butt of a nearby tree. Every time tbe big hound came 
within striking distance, the coon would rear up on his 
hind legs and strike out viciously with his fore paws. 
The hound's head and ears were again bleeding. This 
sparring went on for some time. Then I drew near the 
hound. Again I urged him to attack; to rush in and 
tackle. Thus encouraged, old Sounder sprang upon 
the coon. It was now soon over. The coon was done 
for, though the hound did not come through unscathed. 
Again we bathed his head and eyes. Charley slid down 
the tree, and we laid the two ringtails side by side. 
They were magnificent specimens, and in fine condition. 



CHAPTER XVIII 
"Give Me Libeety" 

Perhaps it was my uncle John who first gave me the 
idea of self assertion. This uncle, because of my grand- 
father Deidrick's second marriage to a young wife, was 
but a year or two older than myself. He was an only 
son by this second wife, and as often happens under 
these circumstances, he was a privileged character. 

2^ow John — because of our almost even ages I 
never used his avuncular title — in my estimation was 
a hero, and I tried to imitate whatever he did. True, 
my mother often pointed out to me that while her half 
brother was a bright, lovable boy, still she was afraid 
his lack of discipline would result in his utter ruination. 
This, however, didn't concern me greatly; what 
fascinated me most in John^s makeup was his masterful 
leadership. Whatever he undertook he excelled in. 
He was resourceful and always considerate. Besides, 
he was good looking, and notwithstanding my mother's 
prediction I don't believe he was ever spoiled, though 
just what effect his utter lack of restraint at home 
would have had on his later character was never known, 
for he had scarcely reached his majority when he 
sickened and died. 

But in my middle teens John was my ideal and 
we were much together. We went squirrel hunting and 
shot quails over the stubble together, and spent many a 
Sunday afternoon together when my parents went home 



226 The Swamps 

with grandfather Deidrick from church for dinner. 
Grandfather Deidrick lived in the hills and several 
miles away from our home. But I have often trudged 
that distance on a late Saturday afternoon when my 
parents gave me permission to spend the night with 
John. What rare occasions were these! 

"We'll go to the party at Hoagland's together, to- 
night," John would say in the most matter-of-fact 
manner. Or, maybe, he would mention a protracted 
meeting miles away or some party or social gathering 
of which I knew nothing whatever. John always 
seemed to know every event of interest within a wide 
circle, and he generally went to them all. Seldom was 
he at home at night. 

"Oh, I never ask Dad, I'm old enough to take care 
of myself. I'm not one of them sissies that are always 
tied to their mother's apron strings." 

What a boy! What independence! How I envied 
him! 

The more I thought of my servile condition the 
stronger I grew in the conviction that I must assert 
myself. "How could any boy," I reasoned, "have any 
self respect when he had to ask his parents for per- 
mission to go out at night ?" This humiliation must be 
removed. The sooner I took my parents in hand and 
gave them to understand that these bonds had to be 
broken the better it would be for all parties concerned. 
Of course I anticipated friction, and knowing my 
father to be a strict disciplinarian, I was sure he would 
be stubborn. But it had to be done ; to put it ofF longer 



"Give Me Liberty'' 227 

would only be temporizing. Why not face the issue 
and bring the matter up at once? Once I made up 
my mind I was anxious to have the disagreeable 
experience over. I was prepared for opposition, but I 
was determined to be firm. I thought I could reason 
with my mother, but my father had very set and definite 
ideas as to his children's obedience. I knew them 
pretty well. I felt a little anxious when I pictured the 
contest with my father. 

But I thought it would be worthwhile even if the 
experience might prove a little disagreeable while the 
contest was on. 

In this frame of mind I learned that there was to 
be an "Exhibition" at the Sharpsville school on the 
coming Thursday night. At these country school 
exhibitions a mixed program was presented, usually 
consisting of a short play, songs, recitations and what- 
not varying with the material at hand and the prefer- 
ences of the teacher. They were popular with the 
several district schools in the neighborhood, and the 
older children of the community usually attended, 
accompanied, of course, by their elders. As a rule I, 
myself, went to these exhibitions but always with one 
or both of my parents. Since they were held at night, 
we children were not expected to tramp the two or three 
miles over country roads, often alongside dark woods, 
to the schoolhouse without the company of our parents 
or some other older members of the family. Nor did 
we really care to do it alone. I remember keeping 
pretty close to the heels of my father and within the 



228 The Swamps 

light of the lantern which he carried when passing a 
lonely stretch of road and feeling pretty glad that I 
was within the shadow of his wing. Any boy of my 
age that would tramp the roads at night by himself was 
tempting fate. That was one reason I looked upon 
John Deidrick as a hero ; he did all these things almost 
nightly and thought nothing of it. He always scorned 
danger. He could ride the most fractious colt in the 
neighborhood and out- run and out- jump any boy in 
the township. And he never knew fear. Why should 
he not become my hero ? His lack of parental restraint, 
I reasoned, must surely account for this outstanding 
fearlessness and prowess. I would start to follow his 
example at once; I would stalk off to the school exhibi- 
tion at Sharpsville on the coming Thursday night 
without saying a word to my parents. 

It was in the late spring, the last exhibition of the 
school term, and the weather was warm and balmy. 
This suited my purpose, for in case I had to remain 
out all night I could sleep in the haymow; as a matter 
of fact I had planned to stay out all night. John had 
on occasions, and why not I? 

Thursday night arrived and after supper I slipped 
into the bedroom while my mother was engaged in 
washing the dishes. Here I nervously dressed. Father 
was engaged at the bam and I seized this opportunity 
to get away unobserved. I did not wish to distress my 
mother unduly so as I hurried through the kitchen I 
told her I was going to the school exhibition at Sharps- 
ville, and would not be back that night. I can see her 



"Give Me Liberty" 229 

utter amazement at the startling announcement. She 
almost dropped the plate she was drying, and for a 
moment did not speak. 

"But Sheridan," she finally gasped, "You haven't 
asked to go; your father ." 

I did not want to argue. I knew under the 
persuasive reasoning of my mother I would be lost; 
my coveted liberty would vanish into thin air. 
Especially as I was never unduly restrained, and was 
allowed all reasonable requests to go any of the places 
I desired. It was not that I was denied any of these 
things; I was striving for a principle, to establish a 
precedent; I wanted to throw off the yoke of my 
thraldom and be as independent as John Deidrick. 

I hurried from my mother's presence, but as I left 
I caught the pained expression on her face and had 
some difficulty in forgetting it. I now saw that I must 
be strong and manly. Continually I had to keep my 
hero before me. 

At length I arrived at the schoolhouse. Several 
kerosene lamps within threw from each of the four 
windows fan-shaped shafts of light that dimly revealed 
the hard, tramped earth around the outside of the plain, 
wooden building. 

Xo sooner had I entered than several of the boys 
who knew me asked in unison : "Where's your folks ; 
didn't come alone, did you?" 

"Sure," T replied, summoning up all the nonchalance 
at my command, "Don't think I'm going to be a sissy 
all my life do you?" 



230 The Swamps 

Immediately I was transformed in their sight. I 
could see a look of amazed adoration spread over their 
faces. 

"IsTot any older than me," one of thera presently 
announced. 

"Maybe not," I replied. Then continued with a 
labored attempt at braggadocio, "but what's that got 
to do with it; some fellers are always sissies, and some 
hain't. There's John Deidrick ." 

I carried off the bluff pretty well and one of the 
fellers asked if he could "set" next to me when the 
show commenced; and several hung close around. I 
heard whispering behind my back. I could catch 
snatches of the conversation. "Sheridan don't have to 
ask to go places anymore," one of them said; and 
another replied : "He's no older than I am, shouldn't 
think his paw would let him go gaddin' about where 
he pleased." 

That was the question in my mind — would my "paw" 
let me? I pondered the subject all through the per- 
formance. I didn't pay much attention to the exhibi- 
tion. I remember after a song by the school there 
were some pieces spoken, and then came the play. 
These plays were not so bad. I was in one myself in 
later years. I remember it well. It was Enoch Arden 
and I was assigned the part of the returned husband, 
who, looking in through the window of his home dis- 
covered his wife happily married to another and in the 
bosom of her family sitting around the evening lamp — 
obviously a happy family with children and infinite 



"Give Me Liberty'' 231 

peace in the picture. And while I stood outside the 
window I vowed never to disclose my identity — every 
one had thought me dead — and to allow this happy 
family to go on to the end, and I — to suffer in silence. 
How sorry the audience would feel for me ! 

These were the melodramatic plays we acted. 
Something of that nature was on that night, the night 
I took the daring stand for liberty. 

Finally the program dragged through to the end, 
and the schoolhouse disgorged its perspiring audience 
into the cool embrace of the night. I had company a 
part of the way home. Some of the parents asked me 
if the folks were sick. "Oh, no," I answered indifferent- 
ly, "they're all right." I could see they were puzzled. 
It was not like George and 'Lizbeth to allow their 
children to go traipesing off to entertainments alone. 
I saw they did not regard the move with favor. It was 
establishing a bad precedent. Their own children 
might demand a like liberty. 

The last of the party dropped out as we proceeded 
on our way home, and I was left alone. Sharpsville 
was north of the Big Woods, and my way now lay 
along the edge of this considerable forest to the lane 
that ran past Jack Kling's cabin up to our house. I 
was very nervous as I skirted the Big Woods. An owl 
suddenly hooted nearby. I jumped. "Ah, shucks !" I 
said to myself, "I know you, you old popeye; can't 
scare me." Still I wished John Deidrick could have 
been along. I felt a little jumpy. When I passed Jack 
Kling's cabin I had a great desire to go in and creep 



232 The Swamps 

into the bunk with him. Was I weakening? J^ever! 
I trudged bravely on. 

I entered our yard through the back gate. All was 
silent and dark within. I thought of my comfortable 
bed with the log cabin quilt. I denied myself the 
pleasure of these thoughts. The battle had just begun. 
I must not swerve from my program. I said I wouldn't 
be home, and I meant it. 

I went to the barn and opened the door. A white 
chicken fluttered from beneath my feet. Again I 
jumped violently. Again I had to reason with myself. 
I climbed to the haymow and burroAved into the hay. 
It was dreadfully lonesome and uncomfortable. A rat 
scurried over the hay near my head. Old Fan kept 
pawing the floor of the stable. I couldn't sleep. I was 
desperately sleepy but wide awake. I didn't sleep a 
wink all night. 

Then a big rooster perched on the partition between 
the stalls of the stable, flapped his wings and crowed 
lustily. The first streaks of dawn came through the 
cracks of the haymow. I crawled out from the hay 
and prepared to descend the ladder to the floor below. 
I was stiff and uncomfortable. Uncomfortable ? I was 
acutely miserable. I was hungry. I hoped quietly to 
pass to the house before the folks were up and get into 
the summer kitchen. I could get some bread and butter 
there and, maybe, a piece of cooked ham. In this I 
succeeded and found something to eat. I put a piece 
of bread and some slices of ham into my pockets for 
lunch. I was just coming out of this summer kitchen 



'*GiVE Me Liberty" 233 

when my father opened the back door of the house. He 
saw me. He didn't look sociable. ^'So you're back," 
he scowled. "I'll teach you to run away without asking 
leave." He started for me, but I didn't wait for him. 
I made for the back gate and was soon running down 
the lane. He picked up a stick and hurled it after me. 
It passed dangerously near my ear. I did not stop 
running till I reached Malissa Xewman's woods. It 
was south of the lane, half way between our house and 
Jack Kling's cabin. Into this woods I turned. I was 
all out of breath. My spirits sank to the lowest ebb. 
I was an outcast. I longed for Tip. I hoped he would 
scent my track and follow me to the woods. He slept 
in the wagon shed, and I had not seen him. I wondered 
where he was. In the middle of the woods I sat down 
on a fallen log. I tried by every means to bolster up 
my courage. I must not give up the fight. It was 
for a principle. I thought of John I>eidrick. What 
joy it would be to say: "Xeither do I have to ask to go 
places." 

The sun now began to tip the treetops with 
burnished silver. I thought of my mother. She would 
now be setting the bacon and eggs on the table; maybe 
hot biscilits with honey, too. I began to question the 
wisdom of my course. I had to think hard of John 
Deidrick, and his glorious freedom. But was it so 
glorious? These doubts became more and more un- 
manageable. 

Xoon came and I munched my dry bread and ham. 
What had become of the zest of eating? I dug an 



234 The Swamps 

edible root and ate it. It was flat and insipid. I 
thought if I could have a nice broiled young rabbit it 
would taste good. But how could I get a rabbit without 
Tip? Old Tip! Had he gone back on me? Why 
didn't he smell me and come to me? 

How lonesome the woods seemed! I was sleepy, 
too, but couldn't go to sleep. 

The afternoon waned, and then once more the stars 
came out. I was cold and hungry. Black doubts filled 
my mind; numbing doubts; torturing doubts. I could 
fancy my mother bowed in grief, that mother who was 
always so quick to forgive. I had no desire to pain 
my mother. Yet I was always doing it. At least so 
it seemed to me. Clarkson never gave her any trouble. 
He was content to play about the yard, or in his "drug 
store." He was daffy on drugs. His store in the 
corner of the wood house was filled with bottles collected 
from the four corners of the neighborhood. He was 
always on the lookout for any bright-colored liquid to 
fill his bottles. When mother cooked any vegetable 
that formed a colored juice, Clarkson always begged 
enough to fill one of his drug store bottles. Silly, I 
always thought forever playing drug store when there 
were miles of meadow and wonderful woods to explore. 
Drugs forsooth! 

But he was wedded to drugs, and it is small wonder 
that in later life he became the owner of one of the 
biggest drug stores in the West. Even now I cannot 
think of Clarkson except in terms of drugs. He had no 
ambition to be free. He was probably taking no 



"Give Me Liberty" 235 

interest in my fight for liberty. All he cared for was 
to originate a new shade for some bottle in his drug 
store. At this very moment, in all likelihood, he was 
sleeping very peacefully in the undisturbed possession 
of the whole of our common bed. 

I thought rapidly. My mind was in a whirl. I 
was losing control of myself. Disgraced ! Couldn't 
stick it out for even two nights ! I felt like a worm. 

No use. The battle was lost. My morale was all 
gone. 

All the time I was moving towards the lane. I 
couldn't help it ; I had no power over my legs, no sense 
of orientation. Every step led me nearer home. Up 
the lane I moved fascinated with that uncanny power 
the serpent wields over a bird, fascinated with the 
clump of trees that marked the sight of home, and that 
now stood out darkly in the gathering night. Still a 
faint voice whispered: "Is this the stuff you're made 
of; is this the sort of courage you so confidently 
boasted?" 

Was I really going to surrender? Abjectly? I 
closed my eyes to shut out the disgraceful picture. 
"Didn't hear about Sheridan's break for liberty, did 
ye?" I could hear this behind my back wherever the 
fellers got together. Then a heartless laugh. "Say, 
feller, that was some stunt." Then from another : "I'll 
bet his paw didn't do a thing to him !" 

I winced ; I cowed before these sarcastic remarks of 
the bovs I knew. 



236 The Swamps 

But all the while my legs were slowly but surely 
carrying me in the direction of home, xllmost before 
I knew it I was at the back gate. Mechanically I 
opened it and passed through. Presently I found 
myself at the south window of the sitting room. 
There was a light in the room. My father and mother 
were talking — talking about me. I pressed my ear to 
the wall and listened. 

"I'm through with him," my father declared, "!N^o 
boy of mine can defy me and stay at home. He's made 
his choice ; now let him abide by it." 

My mother pleaded — pleaded my youth, my volatile 
temperament, my tendency to be influenced by others, 
by John. Yes, John Deidrick had put mischief and 
insubordination into my head. She would speak to her 
half brother and forbid him to come to the house. 

I began to doubt John's wisdom. My idol was 
tottering; the lure of independence was fading; the joy 
of self assertion was turning into ashes of regret. 

"He'll come home, I know he will," my mother 
vehemently declared. Then I heard something like a 
sob. "And please let him stay, George, please, please." 

How these words stabbed me to the heart ! All was 
gone now — my pride, my courage, even the taunts of the 
fellers failed to deter me. I moved around to the front 
door, turned the knob and stepped inside. I stood 
before my parents, trembling in every fiber of my 
body. My father scowled and started towards me. My 
mother arose and stood between us. Then she laid her 
hand on father's arm. Somewhat of the blackness left 



"Give Me Liberty'' 237 

liis face. Then after a moment he turned and left the 
room. I could hear him in the bedroom undressing. 

My mother came to me and looked down into my 
averted face. I glanced up and saw that she had been 
weeping, that the last twenty-four hours had lined her 
fair skin deeply. What could I say? What could 1 
do ? I felt faint, was about to fall. My mother noticed 
it and clasped me in her arms. She sank into a nearby 
chair and I crumpled at her feet. 

I was a big boy, strong and muscular, stronger than 
my mother and almost as big. Yet I felt once more a 
little child. I wept as I did in early childhood when 
my heart was broken. Xot a word w^as said. I tried 
to smother my weeping in my mother's lap. 

"Come, you must be hungry, Sheridan," my mother 
finally said, "Aren't you?" 

"Xo, ma'am" I managed to reply, "I want to go to 
bed." 

I don't believe my mother ever kissed me in later 
boyhood; we had an absurd aversion against growni 
people kissing. But that night after I had undressed 
and was still softly sobbing on my pillow she tip-toed 
into my room and kissed me on the cheek — gave me a 
healing kiss of forgiveness. 

Of the outstanding milestones that still remain un- 
blurred as I look back over the years of my childhood, 
I never fail to linger for a moment — and in deep 
emotion — beside the one marked: "Give me Libertv." 



CHAPTER XIX 
Getting Religion 

The Rudolphs, with few exceptions, belonged to a 
religious sect indigenous to the Middle West. The 
protagonist of this particular faith was a pioneer 
himself, and he built the new church upon rugged and 
austere fundamentals. He took as his sole creed the 
New Testament. Upon this rock he built his church. 
He interpreted the Bible with rigid literalness. He 
regarded the Book as the inspired word of God. He 
believed it could contain no error. He held that the 
men who made it were but instruments in God's hand, 
and that they could make no mistake. He made no 
allowance for variant words or phrases in translating 
the Bible from Greek into English. If the Word said 
white in English it came white from the mouth of God. 
He looked upon King James' version of the Bible as 
the only true version ; as the sole means of grace and 
the one narrow and rugged road to life everlasting. 

There were many arguments in favor of such a 
creed. Xone of man's invention entered into the 
service. We quoted directly from the printed Word 
for every act or ordinance of the church ; we subscribed 
to no ritual save the New Testament. If the disciples 
of Christ met to break bread on the first day of the 
week, so did we. When John went down into the 
water and baptized in the open, under the dome of high 
heaven itself, that was the form of baptism we adopted. 



240 The Swamps 

If the Holy Spirit was not visible in the form of a dove 
when it descended on the new-born, through baptism, 
we believed it came nevertheless. If we were not 
baptized upon the confession of our sins in the ancient 
river, Jordan, we simulated the ordinance as nearly as 
possible, with the means at hand, by seeking out and 
using the deepest swimming hole in the nearby creek. 
Even in winter when ice had first to be removed in 
order to permit baptism I have witnessed these immer- 
sions. Nor did the most delicate devotee ever hesitate 
to go through with the trying experience. They seemed 
rather to glory in it. No one of the faith thought, for 
a moment, that the ducking in midwinter would result 
in any physical harm. They didn't believe that God 
would allow harm to come to His people when engaged 
in any act of service to Him. And so far as record 
or personal knowledge went, no harm ever did happen 
to them. 

We were not baptized as infants. "Suffer them to 
come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the 
kingdom of heaven." Then little children were sinless. 
They had no sins to be remitted; there was no need to 
baptize them. 

But as we advanced in years we accumulated sin on 
the way. There came a point where something had 
to be done; when our sin had to be washed away. 
When we came to the parting of the ways, we had to 
choose between the broad primrose path that led to 
perdition and the straight and narrow way that led to 
the battlements of heaven. This was a dramatic 



Getting Religion 241 

moment in the life of the young. The sect always 
discouraged using undue or minatory influence in 
bringing the young people into the fold; mostly tears 
and prayers, and always in secret. Our parents never 
^'nagged" us about joining church. It was dead against 
their policy. But we always knew if we passed our 
teens without confessing our sins and joining the church 
our parents in secret were weeping for us, and praying 
for our salvation. But they found no fault, nor asked 
us directly to join the church. On the other hand they 
were especially considerate of us. Occasionally tears 
would come to their eyes in our presence. But seldom. 
They avoided heroics that would tend to prejudice a 
healthy-minded boy or girl against religion. Usually 
this attitude finally bore the coveted fruit. Rarely did 
a young Rudolph pass his majority without coming 
safely into the fold. This may have been done in some 
cases to please our parents, but in most instances I 
think we truly believed it was necessary to save our 
souls from the wrath to come. 

These convictions of sin in the youth of the land 
came sometimes with dramatic suddenness. It did in 
my own case. Up to this period of spiritual awakening 
I had never concerned myself seriously about the state 
of my soul. I went to church because it was expected 
of me, and, besides, it was an agreeable break in the 
routine of the week. Then, too, there were certain 
features of the service I enjoyed. I liked the singing. 
The Rudolphs were all fond of singing. Singing school 
was a regular Sunday feature of the church. I can 



242 The Swamps 

see Ellis Smaltz now with his baton beating time as 
he stood in front of the improvised blackboard, and 
taught us to sing the scales. And we flattered ourselves 
we could sing pretty well, too. I believe we could. 
So when the congregation broke out on "Rock of Ages" 
or "Old Hundred" or in Sunday School with some of 
the newer, almost secular songs, I always joined in 
with vigor. My voice was placed by Ellis Smaltz in 
the tenor class — top line of the bass cleff. My eyes 
assiduously sought out these notes, and became expert 
in skipping from the words to the music and back to 
the words again without missing any of the measures. 

All of this was very pleasant on Sunday, not to 
mention the visiting in the latter part of the day with 
my cousins of various degrees. 

But the "message" always fell on deaf ears so far as 
I was concerned. Of course, sometime, in the indefiaite 
future I meant to join church and live a Christian life. 
But so far, my sin did not oppress me, and I found life 
a most delightful adventure. It was heaven enough for 
me just to live. My robust health and love of nature 
was all that I desired. I didn't crave anything better. 
Then why should I concern myself about a future life? 
The present was all sufficient for my complete happi- 
ness. 

But a boy's emotions — his psychic manifestations — 
are apt to be very deep and compelling; they sometimes 
erupt in a most spectacular manner. In youth he takes 
his convictions and abstractions far more seriously and 
dramatically than he takes them in later life. They 



Getting Religion 243 

come to him with overwhelming force. His mind is so 
plastic that they change the whole aspect of his outlook 
on life. They obsess him, they sometimes crush him 
utterly. Under their influence he is apt to do some 
tragic thing. 

It was with these dominating emotions that a con- 
viction of sin came upon my carefree soul. I did not 
reason it out, nor could I attribute it to any definite 
influence. It just seemed to suddenly come to me. 
This strange mood seized me in the early part of the 
week, Tuesday morning, if I mistake not. I got up 
that morning under a cloud. Suddenly all the world 
seemed dull and somber. I realized this change with 
a sinking heart. Tip greeted me as usual, smiling and 
wagging his tail friendly fashion. Mechanically I put 
out my hand and patted his head. But it was a dead 
hand. The world was a dead world. The trees and 
fields became the monuments of my dead self. I was 
in the valley of dry bones and death. I scarcely 
touched my breakfast. My mother noticed it and 
looked anxious. She thought it was dyspepsia; I 
thought it was despair. 

"What's the matter, Sheridan, are you sick?" 
"No," I answered listlessly, "not that I know of." 
She put her hand on my forehead. "I think you 
are all right. Take Tip and go for a walk." 
"Yes'm." 

I started aimlessly for the woods. Tip timidly 
followed me. He had never seen me in this mood, and 
didn't know what to make of it. In the woods I sat 



244 The Swamps 

down and leaned against a tree. Tip sniffed about but 
did not leave me far. I think he thought I would bear 
watching. Poor old Tip ! I remember feeling sorry 
for him. He missed my usual ebullient spirit, and he 
was suffering. I moped about all day. It was that 
night while tossing in my bed that the explanation of 
my mood came to me. My sin was finding me out. I 
was a sinner and God was warning me of my lost 
condition. 

Yes, that was it. It all seemed plain to me now. 

With this discovery I became acutely miserable; I 
was lost — eternally lost. There was but one thing to 
do; I must confess my sins before all men, repent and 
be baptized. 

And this was only Tuesday. I could not be saved 
until the next Sunday — nearly a week away. Suppose 
I should die in the meantime and go to hell; to burn 
and sizzle forever in a lake of burning brimstone! I 
could already feel the hot stifling fumes of the burning 
sulphur against my feverish cheek. My concern was 
now changed to a condition bordering on panic. 
Because of this new-found fear I tossed all night long. 

The next morning my haggard face attracted my 
mother's attention. She looked worried. 

"Sheridan, boy, whatever is the matter? Are you 
sick?" 

My father had gone to work and we were in the 
"sitting room" alone. I had better tell her all — the 
oppression of sin, perhaps unforgivable sin. I had 
thought of this, the unpardonable sin. We had been 



Getting Religion 245 

taught that tliere was an unpardonable sin though just 
what it was, was never clear to me. I don't believe it 
was ever quite settled even among the preachers; they 
never seemed to agree upon what it exactly was. But 
the belief was strong nevertheless that there was an 
unpardonable sin. And this thought had occurred to 
me, that I had committed the unpardonable sin, and 
that there was no hope for me. I reasoned that no 
ordinary sin could so sorely distress my soul, could 
cause me so to suffer. My theology was assuming 
hysterical aspects. I thought of my past life, my un- 
redeemed and sinful life. My misdemeanors assumed 
black and sodden shades. In my overwrought mind I 
went over all the "Thou shalt nots." I decided I had 
broken all of them ; if not in deed in thought. I knew 
I had actually violated some of them. Had I not stolen 
old Biddie's eggs ? Did I not covet the picture book ? 

My mother suspected that my mood might be due 
to some mental perturbation. She had brought up two 
other boys. I was at the age when these psychic 
impressions might take on absurd exaggeration; even 
tragic. It required careful diplomacy. It demanded 
unquestioned confidence. For aw^hile she sat silent. 
Then she came over to my side and laid her hand on 
my arm. 

"Sheridan, son," she began, "is there anything 
bothering you?" 

I knew I must make a clean breast of it all. It 
was no time for deception. The salvation of my soul 
was at stake. 



246 The Swamps 

Breaking down utterly I sank to my knees and 
buried my face in my mother's lap. She stroked my 
head gently. 

**You can trust mother, Sheridan." 

And then sobbing almost hysterically, at times, I 
told her the whole story. She did not interrupt me 
until I had finished; only gently stroked my head. 
Then she tried to sooth me, to comfort me. She told 
me that God was good, that He did not hold sin against 
His children; that I was not as bad as I thought; that 
I had in the main been a good boy and that all would 
be right. 

"But suppose I should die before next Sunday?'' I 
asked. 

"You have already confessed your sins; God has 
heard you. He has promised to forgive us our sins." 

"But I have not been baptized?" 

"In spirit you have, besides next Sunday will soon 
be here." 

For a long time we remained together, my mother 
explaining and comforting me as best she could. In a 
measure I was calmed, but not entirely. I dreaded 
each night when darkness enveloped me in my sinful 
state. I counted the days and hours till Sunday. That 
night after retiring I heard my parents discussing my 
case. They thought I was asleep. 

"He is very nervous," my mother said, "and he 
thinks he is a lost sinner. Of course, he is unduly 
concerned, but don't make fun of him. It's the turning 



Getting Religion 247 

point in his religious life. Please don't say anything 
that would hurt him." 

"But why does the boy take it so hard?" 

"Well, you know," my mother replied, "that's 
Sheridan's nature; he always takes things that way. 
Of course, he's no worse than any other normal boy, 
but he thinks he has been a great sinner. We must not 
laugh at him." Then after a few moments my mother 
continued. "He's afraid the preacher won't be at 
church on Sunday, or if he is, he won't come prepared 
to baptize him. Sheridan wants to be baptized the 
same day he joins the church. He wants you to ride 
over to Wein to see the preacher in person." 

"That's silly," my father replied with some show 
of impatience. 

"I know it is, but I tell you Sheridan is in a very 
nervous state. We must humor him-, you'd better go 
over tomorrow." 

My father grumbled and pleaded that he couldn't 
spare the time. 

"What's a day to a boy's peace of mind?" 

My father finally consented. I slept some that 
night. 

The next morning my father was very kind to me. 
He encouraged me to eat some breakfast. "Eat, lad," 
he said, "I'm going over to see the preacher today; I'll 
tell him to come prepared to baptize you next Sunday. 
Your mother told me; I don't think you will regret it, 
boy." This with infinite tenderness. He put his arms 



248 The Swamps 

about me as he was leaving for the horseback ride to 
Weill. I Avas immeasurably comforted. 

My little brother, Clarkson, had noticed the change 
in me and was puzzled. 

"He's going to join church next Sunday," my 
mother explained, and I immediately became glorified 
in my brother's eyes. All the rest of that week 
Clarkson's face in my presence wore an expression of 
adoration. 

Then Saturday night came, and at last Sunday 
morning. With what joy I greeted that bright Sunday 
morning! I think I framed a special prayer that 
morning thanking the "Giver of all Good Gifts" for 
having preserved my life till then. 

I prepared my morning toilet with great care — 
with an air of reverence. It all seemed like a dream 
to me. I moved about the familiar scenes of home in 
a detached mood. I was no longer the carefree boy 
of last week. I had been touched by the power of the 
Creator and transformed. 

The church seemed transformed too, transformed 
from the comfortable brick-and-mortar building to a 
holy temple, the abode of the Deity. Still in a dream 
I followed my father on the men's side to the third pew 
from the pulpit. I had asked my father to go up front. 
Here we sat through the sermon. I don't remember 
what it was all about. I was still in a fervor, a 
spiritual trance. 



Getting Kelioion 249 

Then came the communion. Xext Sunday I would 
join in the celebration of the Lord's Supper. I couldn't 
quite realize that ; I didn't try. I just waited. 

Now I knew the stage was set for me. Soon I 
would arise from my seat and go forward. When in 
the past I saw other young people present themselves 
to the church I wondered how they felt. I couldn't 
quite imagine it. Now I knew. They didn't feel ; they 
were in a numbed state of exaltation. They were spirit, 
and didn't feel. 

The first verse of the last hymn was finished, and 
at the beginning of the next, still in a dream, I arose 
from my seat and moved to the platform on which 
the preacher stood. He took my hand and smiled, 
and bade me be seated on the front pew. The hymn 
continued, and I studied old Billy Claire's face — 
"Brother Billy" as we lovingly called him. The 
preacher was above the average country minister in 
education and ability. I always liked his sermons, 
especially after I grew older. They were such calm, 
dispassionate, scholarly sermons. I liked Brother 
Billy; I was glad he was to baptize me. He was tall, 
muscular, dependable. He was the author of a book, 
yes, a real printed book. It lay on our sitting-room 
table. I often read from it, and while the subject was 
of a polemical character far above my head, still there 
was something pleasing in the sound of the sentences. 
I had a reverential regard for Billy Claire, and now he 
was to induct me into the church. 



250 The Swamps 

As the singing ceased my heart beat tumultuously. 
My name would be spoken before all the people. I 
would have to stand up and answer certain questions. 
And then I would be driven to the creek and baptized. 
It all seemed very chimerical to me; rather more like 
watching some dramatic performance than being the 
chief actor. 

I heard my name pronounced. I answered all the 
questions. The tall, towering preacher gave all the 
particulars about the baptism. And then the benedic- 
tion. Still in a daze I followed my father to the door 
of the church. Several people spoke to me — something 
biblical or of a congratulatory nature. Some were old 
people and a few of my own age. Several of them 
pressed my hand encouragingly. 

My mother joined us and we walked across the 
sodded inclosure to where old Fan and the buggy stood. 
Clarkson had been sent home with a neighbor. We 
climbed into the buggy and turned down the road 
towards the deep pool in the creek. A part of the 
congregation followed, other buggies preceded us. The 
day was fine. I believe it was in June. The foliage 
was in full, the sun warm and benign. 

We halted a few hundred feet from the pool. My 
father alighted and hitched old Fan to a tree. My 
mother prepared me for the ordinance. She removed 
my shoes and coat. She turned down my shirt collar. 
Then she unrolled a heavy blanket that she had brought 
along with her to wrap around me on our way home. 
This she draped over the seat of the buggy. 



Getting Religion 251 

Brother Billy was standing on a sandy edge of the 
pool. He wore his waterproof suit, a garment fashioned 
for these occasions. The people had assembled about 
him and were singing a familiar hymn. He looked in 
our direction and we moved forward, my father on 
one side of me and my mother on the other. They 
handed me to the preacher. At the conclusion of the 
first verse of the hymn I started by the side of the 
preacher to walk slowly into the pool. The singing 
continued. A robin trilled in a tree nearby. When we 
had reached the middle of the pool, the deepest part, 
we faced about towards the little cluster of people who 
stood on the bank. They had finished the second verse 
and now remained silent. How still and calm was all 
nature ! Only the faintest rustling of the f ull-foliaged 
trees on the bank of the creek disturbed the holy calm. 

Then the preacher, after a few formal words of a 
ritualistic nature, concluded with : "Sheridan Rudolph, 
I baptize thee in the name of the Father, the Son and 
of the Holy Ghost, Amen.^' Supported by the muscular 
arm of Brother Billy I sank back confidently and un- 
resistingly. The clear water flowed over my face and 
body. Steadily he lifted me up again, and the assembly 
took up the last verse of the baptismal hymn. On the 
bank I was again taken by many hands. Several 
elderly women clasped me to their hearts wet as I was. 

Oh, what a load had been lifted from my soul ! I 
was saved, I was redeemed. What a world ! Wliat 
trees! What sunshine! How sweet was life, how 
saintly were all the people ! 



252 The Swamps 

Wrapped in the warm blanket the ride home was a 
journey through a palpitating paradise. There was but 
little said. My mother held my hand at times and 
looked supremely happy. My father looked ahead pre- 
occupied and in deep thought. Only once did he say 
that he was pleased, and hoped I would grow up to be 
a good man. It was difficult for him to show outward 
emotion, though I knew inwardly he was often moved 
to great depths. 

That afternoon in a dry, clean suit I lived in an 
eartJbly heaven. Tip went with me to the woods and 
the trees sang their hallelujahs. I was still under the 
spell of religious fervor. 

Perhaps of all the experiences that came to me in 
childhood and early boyhood "getting religion" made 
the deepest and most lasting impression of them all. 
Far be it from me to speak lightly of this Sacrament; 
would to God that it could come again. 



CHAPTER XX 
Willis Comes Home 

Willis was my oldest brother. Jonathan came next; 
then my sister, Luella. These three children formed a 
separate group, an older group separated from my 
brother, Clarkson, and myself by more than a dozen 
years. 

Because of this gap between the two sets of children 
coupled with the fact that all three of the older group 
left home early, I can but vaguely remember them — my 
sister and the two brothers — as being at home at all. 
Jonathan and Luella married young, the former before 
he was twenty, and the latter at the? age of seventeen. 
Willis went west and taught school. He did not marry 
till well over thirty. 

Xow after an absence of a number of years he was 
..about to return and live at home again. He had 
applied for and obtained the position of teacher of the 
"Big Room" of the school at Rushville, and I was to 
go to school to him. This situation was fraught with 
far-reaching possibilities. It caused me many an 
anxious moment. I pictured all sorts of dramatic 
happenings when I started to school in the fall again — 
to my own brother whom I scarcely knew. What would 
he do to me ; what would he think of me ? I had never 
taken school seriously; I habitually played hookey and. 
in consequence, was far behind my classes. It was not 
an alluring prospect. 



254 The Swamps 

For one thing my hookey days would be over — not 
the slightest chance now of being absent from school, 
when the teacher lived at our house, who was a member 
of the family, who was my own brother. Then, too, I 
knew that I would disgrace him. Here was a member 
of the family, a school teacher, smart and capable, while 
I, his own blood brother, was a numskull, the laughing 
stock of the class ! How would he feel about it ? For 
the first time in my life I wished I had not wasted my 
time at school. Though I scarcely knew Willis I some- 
how liked him. He was kind of a hero in my estima- 
tion. Jack Kling loved to tell of Willis' exploits when 
Willis was a boy. The incident of the killing of the 
trapped wolf always thrilled me, glorified Willis in my 
estimation. 

Now this hero brother was to come home and live 
with us again. How he would contemn and condemn 
me for my general worthlessness ! I had never seen a 
wolf let alone having killed one. What a nincompoop 
Willis would consider me ! 

Before Willis arrived from the West I had many an 
uncomfortable moment. I dug up my dog-eared school 
books and wondered if I might not study up on readin', 
'rithmetic and writin', before Willis arrived. I sought 
my mother's opinion as to Willis' probable attitude 
towards me. She assured me that everything would 
come out all right, that Willis would help me with my 
studies. For the moment I felt a little more at ease; 
but away from mother and her assurances I again enter- 



Willis Comes Home 255 

tained grave doubts as to the success of my school 
relations with my brother. 

I wondered what Willis was like. True, he had 
made one visit home during his stay in the w^est, but 
I didn't remember him very distinctly. I had a vague 
impression that I liked him, and that on several 
occasions he helped me construct some contraption — 
toy or trap — that I was struggling with, and that on 
these occasions I thought he was a mechanical wizard, 
an estimate that had some foundation in fact, for Willis 
was a born mechanic, and I was destined in later years 
to spend many a happy day with him in the farm 
workshop. 

At last Willis arrived. 

Father met the afternoon train at Rushville with 
old Fan and the buggy. I remained at home, for Willis 
and his trunk would make a good load for old Fan, 
and leave no room for me. 

I heard the locomotive whistle for the station and 
my heart beat violently. Willis was on that train, 
Willis, who for the last two months had in turn proved 
to me a high hope and a black despair. I have since 
w^ondered why the prospective coming of Willis caused 
such a commotion in my heart. He was my brother 
and was to be my school teacher. Except for the 
consciousness that I was behind in my studies there was 
nothing very dramatic in this situation. With my 
usual egotism and self confidence I felt I could soon 
catch up with the other boys in school. I didn't 
consider them as bright as I was. They knew very little 



256 The Swamps 

about things that I was an authority on. They were 
perfectly stupid about the habits of field mice and 
woodpeckers and squirrels, and other folks of the woods 
and fields. So why should I be much impressed with 
their "book learnin' ?" 

From this thought — the thought that I could soon 
catch up with them — I derived a modicum of comfort. 
I'd not only catch up with them but I would soon 
surpass them. I'd show Willis that I was worthy of 
him, and that he would be proud of me. 

While occupied with these musings I saw the ears 
of old Fan wiggling the mare around the bend of the 
road. Then the buggy followed and soon the caravan 
was at our gate. 

Willis was short, the only short member of the 
family. I often pondered this. My mother was a fine- 
looking woman — tall and in every way well balanced. 
Father was of medium height; all the children were 
tall — all save Willis. Willis was shorter than any of us. 

But Willis had something fine about him, his kindly, 
boyish, half shy but frank eye that made one forget his 
rather too scant stature. And he was strong out of all 
proportion to his size. His muscles were wiry, and 
played beneath his fair skin in rhythmic power. The 
moment he climbed out of the buggy I liked him. 
Slyly I moved to the front gate. My mother had 
preceded me and had her arm about Willis. I hung 
back at the gate. Would he like me? It was a 
dramatic moment. 



Willis Comes Home 257 

Then Willis turned to me. I met his friendly eye 
and opened the gate. 

''Why, Sheridan, 1 hardly knew you, what a fine 
big boy you are !" 

He looked me in the eye; such a frank honest look. 
I trusted him. From that moment I always trusted 
Willis implicitly. All my life I trusted him and my 
trust was never betrayed. 

We moved into the house — the enlarged and weather- 
boarded cabin, a house now with two front doors, and 
five sizeable rooms; a comfortable house with two fire- 
places of brick, and a kitchen stove; a painted house 
that looked like a frame building, but superior because 
the walls were solid logs, the logs of the original but 
later enlarged log cabin. 

I helped Willis carry his trunk to the north bed- 
room. I was to sleep with him. It was to be our 
common bedroom. Clarkson was to sleep in the room 
occupied by my parents. 

Willis asked such interesting questions, interesting, 
at least, to a boy. 

"That's a pretty nice martin box — who made it?" 

Why did he notice that martin box first when the 
new corn crib and hen house would naturally first claim 
his attention ? He walked over nearer to the pole that 
supported the bird box. "Yes sir, that's a neat job; 
good proportions, fine joints." 

I glowed with pride. I confessed rather modestly 
to having constructed the box myself. I was enormous- 
ly pleased with the praise. I could build the most 



258 The Swamps 

marvelous bird houses, the most ingenious machines 
and the most intricate devices for measuring the velocity 
of the wind, and Clarkson would never take any particu- 
lar notice of them. "Oh, it's all right," he would say 
with a bored expression, "good enough, I reckon." 
That would be the extent of his comment, as he turned 
from mechanics that bored him to the drugs that he 
adored. 

But here was Willis whose first comment about 
home things was on my two-story martin box, a box on 
which I had spent days, and of which I was inordinately 
proud. And Willis was genuinely interested and 
sincere. He asked all about its interior arrangement, 
the number of compartments, the size and thickness of 
the i^artitions. In a moment my shyness had vanished 
and I was babbling away completely absorbed in the 
subject of martin boxes. I showed him other things I 
had made — a little water wheel that ran from water 
siphoned from a pail of water, and a windmill that 
kept a little man sawing wood on every windy day, and 
a rooster weathervane, and a little wagon with wheels 
made from disks sawed from the end of a log. 

"What on earth have you two found to keep you 
out of the house all this time?" my mother exclaimed 
as she came around the house looking for us. "Here, 
it's nearly supper time and you have scarcely been in 
the house for a minute." 

Willis looked a little sheepish as he explained that 
he was examining my inventions. "I^ot half bad, 



Willis Comes Ho.me 259 

either," Willis added. "Mighty clever, those contrap- 
tions; and that martin box is a beauty." 

My mother agreed with liim. She always appre- 
ciated my mechanical conceits, though I suspect she 
never sensed the niceties of construction and finish as 
did brother Willis. 

1 went to bed that night in high spirits. I had 
found in Willis a congenial spirit, a brother of like 
mind as of myself. I pictured with apocalytic accuracy 
the endless days I was destined to spend with Willis in 
workshop and walks as the years rolled on and kept him 
in our midst — years that under his sympathetic 
direction, and fatherly interest had much to do in 
sliaping my after life. 

But there was one question that bothered nie 
immeasurably. It was this: "What would Willis think 
of me when he learned, as he was inescapably destined 
to learn, that I was a numskull in school?" The fonder 
I grew of Willis the more poignant became my suffering 
at the thought of this discovery. At times I had all but 
decided to make a clean breast of it and tell him the 
whole disgraceful story — the story of my habit of 
playing hookey, of habitually neglecting my lessons — 
and as a result of this sinful waste of time, of being 
far behind the other boys in school. True, since I 
joined church in June, T had fully made up my mind 
to apply myself industriously to my studies during the 
coming term, but how much easier it would have been 
to catch up with my classes under a strange teachor 
instead of under mv l)r()ther, a brother whom I found 



260 The Swamps 

more congenial every day. The opening of school was 
but a fortnight off ; I trembled to think of it. 

In my perturbation I sought the advice of my 
mother. She had evidently been troubled by the same 
thought; for it had slowly become neighborhood 
knowledge that I was carelessly indifferent to my school 
work, and that most of the boys of my own age were 
far ahead of me in their studies. 

"I have thought of that, Sheridan," my mother 
agreed, "and I am sorry you wasted your time at 
school." 

"Do you think Willis will — will despise me?" I 
anxiously asked. 

"Oh, no," she assured me, "but since he has such 
a high opinion of your mechanical ability, I am afraid 
he will be disappointed that you are so far behind in 
your schooling." 

This thought pained me deeply, that Willis whom 
I had learned to regard so highly, and in whom I had 
discovered such an appreciative critic in all that I did 
should be disappointed in me. 

"Do you think I could study up some before school 
opens?" I anxiously asked. 

"You might," she answered dubiously, "that is, if 
Willis would be willing to help you." 

That was just it. I had often pondered the question 
before. Would it be better to tell Willis and throw 
myself upon his mercy and trust to his generosity, his 
willingness to tutor me before school began ? If so, I 
decided I must approach him at once; time was short 



Willis Comes Home 261 

That night after supper we were sitting under the 
locust tree in the front yard. Willis was planning a 
huge wind engine which we might build together during 
the coming winter — one that would pump water, churn, 
saw wood, shell and crack corn. It was a most alluring 
picture, and one that I fain would have discussed with 
him until bed time. But the question of my back- 
wardness in school was a more weighty one, and one 
that was now uppermost in my mind. The confession 
had to be made and that at once. Willis must have 
noticed my lack of interest in what he thought would 
prove a powerful appeal to me. Finally he said : "Don't 
you think we could do it? Wind power in the west 
does all the things I have mentioned and more. I have 
studied these wind engines and am sure we could build 
one. Was I interested?" Indeed, beyond measure. I 
told him so, emphasized it. 

"You know I am interested," I declared with 
vehemence, "it would be the most exciting thing I ever 
did. Think of it, to see that great wheel turned by the 
wind and doing all kinds of work ! It would be the best 
thing that ever happened in the Swamps. But," I 
continued and hung my head in shame, "but Willis" — I 
faltered in abject misery, "I haven't been to school 
much, I haven't studied much, I've been wild, I'm way 
behind my classes." 

Willis looked a little disappointed, just for a 
moment. Then his face brightened as he reassured me. 

"That's too bad, Sheridan." 



262 The Swamps 

I awaited with fear his condemnation. But that's 
as far as it went. 

"That's too bad," he repeated thoughtfully. Then 
after a moment he continued: "But buck up. I've got 
faith in you. Maybe you have been a little careless 
about your studies. Many a boy has. Why, one of 
my brightest boys in the west was seventeen years old 
when he first started to school. I taught him to read, 
used to stay after school. In four years he was at the 
head of his class, is now working his way through 
college. Xo boy could do things like you do and be 
stupid. Xo, siree. Don't you let that bother you; 
we'll build the windmill all right and you will be up in 
your work, too, before Christmas." 

If I loved Willis before I could have fallen doAvn 
and worshipped him now. But of course I didn't ; only 
turned aside to crowd back the threatened tears. I 
called his attention to a couple of cardinals that during 
the summer had nested in the cedar, and reared their 
fledglings there. 

That night by a smoky oil lamp I brought out my 
'rithmetic, and before school opened Willis had patiently 
led me from fractions to cube root. I would not have 
disappointed Willis for all the gold in the world in his 
cheery prediction that I would come out in my school 
work all right. 

Came September. That momentous morning my 
mother packed away our lunch in a neat homemade 
basket, one that my father had especially fashioned 
for this particular purpose, one with a hinged top that 



Willis Comes Home 263 

fit down neatly over the outer edge of the lower section, 
and fastened with a hasp woven of willow. 

I carried the lunch, our lunch, the teacher's lunch 
and mine. 

I wondered what the boys would say when they 
saw me eating the noonday meal with the teacher — 
say of me, a notorious shirker and adept at playing 
hookey. I also thought of how they would gloat over 
me in class when I displayed my backwardness, my 
ignorance, and I the teacher's brother! Weil, I 
consoled myself, they didn't know I had been studying 
hard and faithfully for two w^hole weeks. I would 
show them I was not such a blockhead after all. 1 was 
fiercely determined to redeem myself. I would study 
all night if necessary. I was going to be a credit to 
Willis at all costs, I would ! I emphatically would. 

The boys and girls were waiting outside the door. 
Willis was as much of a stranger to them as he had been 
two months before to me. He spoke to them pleasantly 
and I called several boys by name. But most of them 
hung back. There seemed to be something missing 
from the confidential relationshij) of last year. Was it 
because Willis was to be the teacher, Willis my own 
brother? Or maybe it was because I had joined church 
since the last session, maybe they would call me one 
of those goody, goody boys. Maybe. Whatever it was 
1 felt it, felt that I was no longer one of them. I 
feared they were going to cut me. 



264 The Swamps 

First day over, and still the restraint. So far I 
had not disgraced Willis. In the perfunctory recita- 
tions of the first day I did as well as the others. 

"Where did he learn his fractions?" I heard Wilda 
Hart ask. 

"Don't know," Billy Hoadley replied. "Didn't 
know nothing about fractions last year." 

But I did my examples in fractions on the black- 
board creditably enough. Billy made a mistake in his 
common denominator, Billy, my pal on many a hookey 
jaunt. Even Billy seemed a little distant at the noon 
recess. 

A week passed, a month, three months — then came 
Christmas. 

After the Christmas holidays the boys warmed up a 
bit to me. They liked Willis. He was so boyish 
himself, had a boy's outlook on life, not assumed to 
make himself popular with the boys, but really boyish 
at heart; remained so all his life. He joined with 
us in our games when he could spare the time, and 
always laughed heartily when the joke was on himself. 
Once we slung him sprawling to the bottom of the 
hill in a well-engineered game of crack the whip. He 
ran foot races with the boys and was sometimes out- 
distanced, too. I believe every boy liked Willis and 
from holding aloof from me because I was the teacher's 
brother, and could not for that reason be taken into 
their confidences, I at length became all the more 
trusted, a go-between them and the teacher, a sort of a 
friend at court to intercede for them and to represent 



Willis Comes Home 265 

them whenever occasion demanded an intercessor. It 
was very pleasant to be taken back again into their 
confidences, and be one of them. 

I spoke "pieces" now with the others. I sometimes 
made some rather amusing mistakes. Our selections 
were generally classical — from the prose and poetry of 
the early Victorian period — and generally far above 
our heads. It was perfectly natural, therefore, that not 
being able to grasp the fine points we gave these 
selections some grotesque and whimsical interpreta- 
tions; not to mention some original pronunciations of 
long and, to us, meaningless words. We never rehearsed 
these declamations in the presence of our teacher — 
for some vague reason this was not considered fair or 
good form. We were given the selections to speak 
without outside help. We declaimed these pieces on 
Friday afternoons. I well remember on one occasion 
when I had been given Anthony's Oration to declaim. 
I had spent a good deal of time in preparing this classic 
— declaimed it in the fastness of the forest and, on 
occasions, in the back of the farthest field. I was 
determined to make a great hit. It has always been 
difficult for me to speak pieces, difficult for me to 
memorize anything, that is, letter perfect. So to 
memorize the "Oration" meant a vast amount of work 
for me. 

But finally the fateful afternoon arrived and I felt 
proud of what I considered my accomplishment, the 
achieving of this masterpiece. 



266 The Swamps 

It was my turn to speak. "Friends, Komans, 
Countrymen," I began, booming out my voice till it 
rattled the wooden partition between the two rooms. 
Then I hesitated. The room began to waver a trifle. 
Some one giggled. That didn't help matters. Some- 
one whispered the next line. I looked at Willis. He 
had his head down over the desk and his hands over 
his mouth. My heart leaped in gratitude. Willis was 
surreptitiously prompting me. I caught the line and 
with supreme confidence bellowed ahead. The windows 
fairly rattled from my booming voice. I gained 
confidence as I neared the ending. I was saying; 
"The evil that men do lives after them; the good is 
oft interred with their bones." There was a titter, 
that temporarily abashed me. But I thundered ahead 
till I reached the end and made my bow. After 
returning to my seat I pondered the reason of that 
last titter. On our way home I asked Willis how I 
did with the "Oration." "Pretty good, Sheridan, pretty 
good." I could see that Willis had a mental reserva- 
tion. I thought it concerned the mysterious titter. 
"What made some one giggle at one place?" 1 asked. 
"I think it was because you mispronounced the word, 
'interred'," Willis said. "You made three syllables of 
it — 'in-terred,' and you placed the accent on the red; 
1 suppose it sounded a little funny to the older boys, 
the boys who had spoken it before." 

I was covered with confusion ; I felt my face redden. 
There I had bellowed in agonizing confidence and made 
this ridiculous mistake in the pronounciation of a 



Willis Comes Home 2G7 

familiar word. 1 was anxious to speak the piece again 
and rectify the blunder. But I never did. 1 did, 
however, speak other pieces, but never the "Oration.*' 
I never heard the last of my "In-ter-/-^<:/." To this day 
I feel a little warm when I think of it. 

Willis instituted a monthly paper and I wrote for 
it; poetry, too, about nature, the blue bird, and old 
bushy tail; about the sunset, the ocean — which I had 
never seen — and many other matters that appealed to 
my boyish sensibilities. 

We all wrote for the BushviUe School Gazette. 
The last Friday afternoon in each month the 
editor for that particular month read the paper. 
It was something to look forward to. Some editions 
were gotten up very artistically — foolscap paper ruled 
into columns with printed captions and headlines. I 
have one of those old papers to this day; I never look 
at it but to marvel at its neatness. And what a vast 
amount of labor was required to produce an edition ! 
Some editors particularly clever with their pen would 
print the whole edition, and print it well, too. Six 
or eight pages of foolscap all neatly printed in two or 
three colors of ink — red, green and black to lend 
variety to the pages and stress certain outstanding 
items of news. 

We had several exhibitions that winter, too. Rush- 
ville school under Willis' management became famous 
for its exhibitions. Willis had some histrionic ability. 
He took great delight in it. Our performances were 
always crowded, even when we threw the two rooms 



268 The Swamps 

together by removing the portable partition between 
them. 

I was given a part in these exhibitions. But never 
a very prominent part. Willis explained to me that 
being his brother people might criticize him if he gave 
me a too prominent part. I understood and I 
thoroughly approved of his policy. He never favored 
me. Contrary wise, he often required more of me than 
he did of the other boys. I understood this also. He 
knew I understood why he did this. It only brought us 
closer together, for I never complained; I never failed 
him. 

The last exhibition; closing exercises and then 
summer. 

I remember how proud I was when Willis "bragged 
on me" that night at supper. 

"^N'ever had a better boy at school anywhere/' Willis 
declared. "I^obody ever studied better. He's taken 
two years in one." This was practically true. For two 
years before Willis came home I was a waster, a wild 
boy. Every lesson I studied now began two years ago. 
I had to review two lessons before I came to the lesson 
in hand. 

Worked? I never worked so hard in my life. 
But I would have studied all day and night rather than 
disgrace Willis. I loved Willis, not only as a brother 
but as a father, a playmate, a trusted friend. 

Willis worked on my father's fai-m with me that 
summer. What a bumper crop my father grew that 
summer ! ^ever a weed in the corn, the garden as 



Willis Comes Home 269 

clean as a whistle, and every fence corner mowed like 
a lawn. 

Father was in clover. Three boys at home to help 
him! True, Clarkson being the youngest and charged 
with the burden of his ever enlarging Drug Store, did 
not count for much, but Willis and I were early in the 
field and late to quit. I think that was the happiest 
summer of my life on the farm. 

What days when we couldn't work outside, days 
Willis and I spent in the workshop ! The windmill was 
started in the winter and almost finished by spring. 
"VMiat a mechanic was Willis! He fashioned wheels, 
and bearings and belts with the nicety of machinery. 
One master cogwheel was needed for the windmill. 
Willis made it out of wood. It fitted the cogwheel with 
which it engaged with mathematical precision. We 
erected a tower back of the house over the well. On 
this tower we mounted our machine. Xo sooner was it 
in position and released than it began to revolve. Only 
a light breeze, but it ran, ran with all the majesty and 
beauty of poetry. I don't believe I was ever more 
thrilled in my life than when our wind engine began 
to function. Smoothly, noiselessly, easily the great fan 
revolved in the gentle breeze. There only remained the 
hook-up to any sort of machine that it would run. 
First, we attached the shaft to the handle of mother's 
churn. This required but slight power, and soon the 
milk-house-cooled cream was yellow with flakes of 
butter. My mother rejoiced with us. Churning now 
was simple. After the handle with a simple devise had 



270 The Swamps 

been attached she was at liberty to coucern herself with 
any other household work that chanced to be at hand. 
Sawing wood was a little more complicated, but it 
worked as well here as it did in shelling and cracking 
the corn. 

Those were halcyon days. Then another summer. 
I had completed the grades at Rushville. What was to 
be done next in the way of education? Willis fai'ored 
my going to Hillton — to High School. In the spring 
it had not been settled. The summer remained to 
settle it — my last summer with Willis, for the Fates 
decreed that Willis was to be married in August. 

When Willis began "keeping company" with Molly 
Smith I resented it. It was the first flj^ in the ointment 
of our perfect happiness. I had never seen Molly 
Smith — she was the teacher at Hoagsland — but I 
pictured her as an ogre, a vampire that had lured 
my unsuspecting brother to his destruction. Seldom 
was Willis at home now^ on Sundays. He was spending 
his time — my time — with that detestible Molly Smith. 
He was already considered a member of the family. 
I became peevish, unreasonably resentful against his 
course. He tried to placate my feelings, to soften my 
resentment. He had already bought a small farm 
adjoining ours on which he proposed to begin married 
life with Molly Smith. 

"You're going to leave us just when things arc 
going on smooth," I protested. 

"But," Willis would reply, "we won't be far away 
— almost in hearing distance." 



Willis Comks IIo.mk 271 

"But you won't be at home." 

I felt ashamed of my unreasonabh' attitude. 1 was 
acting like a kid. Mother, too, tried to set me right 
about the matter. "Why, Sheridan," she would explain, 
"you couldn't expect Willis never to leave home ; he has 
to make a start in life sometime, don't he?" 

But I didn't like it, I didn't like the idea of his 
caring more for some one else. I was violently 
prejudiced against Molly Smith. 1 nursed my grudge 
against her; I pictured her as a long, lank monster — 
she was described by one of her pupils whom I chanced 
to meet, as a tall, angular teacher — and I decided never 
to have anything to do with her. What jealous in- 
justice ! Dear Molly I Molly who took the place of a 
mother to me in later years, Molly who refused to give 
me up when the doctors had done so, and worked over 
me all that long, tragic night when the fever had all 
but claimed me as its victim. 

But such is the jealous injustice of youth. 

I attended the wedding, a little sullenly perhaps, 
but I saw Molly, and in spite of my prejudice, I liked 
her. 

Willis and Molly went to Niagara Falls on tlieir 
wedding trip. 



CHAPTER XXI 
TiBELESs Time and Tide 

For several years my mother had not been well. She, 
herself, would not admit it, made light of it. "All 
nonsense," she would say, "of course I'm well, maybe 
a little tired at times; who isn't? That's nothing, 
everybody's tired at times, it's natural." 

But her protestations did not convince us. We 
could see weariness written in telltale wrinkles on her 
fair face; her flesh became soft and flabby, and dark 
hollows formed beneath her uncomplaining eyes. 

These evidences of failing health were more 
pronounced on some days than they were on others. 
Indeed, for several weeks at a time she would seem as 
vigorous and fine looking as she ever did; and my 
mother was a fine looking woman — tall, well propor- 
tioned, clear skin and pink complexion. / thought she 
was beautiful. It pained me deeply to see her rosy 
cheeks take on an unhealthy pallor. I could not deceive 
myself, my mother was failing. Still she persisted in 
doing her work as usual, though we all tried to persuade 
her to have some one come and help her. But she 
would not. "What do I want with a woman puttering 
around the house," she would answer with feeling. 
"Only be in the way; I don't need her, the work isn't 
hard, I can easily do it." Then as an after thought 
she added, "and besides Sheridan's going to High School 
at Ilillton in the fall — that will make the house- 



274 The Swamps 

work mere child's play, only three in the family. I 
must be pretty poorly if I can't keep house for three." 

"But I'll be home every week from Friday night 
till Monday morning," I reminded her. 

"Then I'll make you pitch in and help me," she 
replied with a twinkle of the eye. 

During the early part of the summer my mother 
remained about the same, had her good days and her 
poor days. Clarkson and I did the harder work about 
the house and tried to help her in every wa}^ we could. 

"You make a pretty good girl, Sheridan," she would 
say to me when I succeeded in turning my hand to some 
particularly feminine work. When mother had had a 
restless night I got breakfast. In anticipation, perhaps, 
of these occasions my mother had taught me to do plain 
cooking — frying bacon and eggs, making coffee and 
milk gravy and the like. Many a morning I arose and 
prepared breakfast. "^NTo," I would answer her argu- 
ment that it was all nonsense, "you lie still; I'll be 
going to school soon noAv, and Clarkson isn't as good 
a cook as I am. So you'd better use me while you 
can." Still vowing it was all unnecessary she would 
sink back on the pillow. I could see she needed the 
rest. When Clarkson and I had finished breakfast 
and washed the dishes we allowed her to get up. 

At first my father had opposed my going to High 
School. During the three winters I went to Rushville 
under Willis' teaching I had made satisfactory progress. 
I was up with my classes. This usually ended the 
education of the average farmer boy. But I wanted to 



Tireless Time and Tide 275 

go further, 1 wanted to go to High School. Willis was 
of like mind. My mother wanted me to go. But father 
was not convinced. I could now do a man's work on 
the farm, he sorely needed help. The old trapper, 
Jack Kling, w^as still working for us, but Jack was 
getting on in years. How old he was no one knew. 
Jack himself, didn't know. 

"^o, Sheridan," Jack would say to me ruefully, 
"I'm getting old, I'm coming to the short rows, the 
field will soon be finished." 

Xone knew it better than I — old Jack, my good pal, 
my romancer of toddlehood days was stiffening up, his 
eyes were growing dim; he couldn't do a man's work 
now. 

"Don't see why George keeps me any longer," he 
would say sorrowfully, "I ain't no good to him any 
more." 

I assured Jack he would never go without a home 
while a Rudolph had one. This assurance always 
seemed to comfort him. 

But the fact remained, nevertheless, that Jack was 
out of the reckoning so far as farm work went, ^fy 
father could not depend upon him. 

My father had some difficulty in bringing himself 
to the point where he could consent to my going to High 
School. He had expected me to take my place on the 
farm. The idea of continuing my education beyond the 
country school did not fit in with his plans. 

One night after retiring I heard my parents 
discussing my case. 



276 The Swamps 

"I want liim to go," my mother insisted. ''Willis 
has faith in him, and agrees with me. Willis believes 
the money will be well spent." 

"ISTone of the other children ever went to High 
School," my father argued; "why should we make an 
exception of Sheridan?" 

"Well, times have changed. When we were young, 
education didn't count so much; only the ability to 
work. !N'ow it's different, a boy without, at least, a 
High School education is handicapped, is at a great 
disadvantage." 

But my father was obdurate. He still placed brawn 
above brain. He still held to the pioneer doctrine 
that the ability and the will to work with your hands 
was the surest road to success. 

My father argued from another angle. "Besides 
I can't spare the money. Wouldn't be right either to 
spend more money on one child than another." 

This point was promptly met by my mother. She 
had evidently been pondering this phase. "I've thought 
of that. As you say, it wouldn't be fair to give one 
child more than another. If you let him go to school, 
I'll make it even with the other children. I have 
a thousand dollars in the bank, the thousand from 
father's estate. I'll pay Sheridan's expenses. It won't 
be more than a hundred dollars a year for the two 
years, at least not much more by his coming home every 
Friday after school — and I'll give each of the other 
children a like amount ; five children in all, two hundred 
dollars each — that takes the thousand dollars." 



Tireless Time and Tide 277 

My father protested: "Wliy don't you keep that 
money to spend on yourself? It's your money to do 
with as you please?" 

"To spend it like that would please me best of all." 
Then after a pause she added, "Besides, what's the use 
to keep it till we're gone. I want the children to have 
it now — when I can enjoy it with them." 

There was silence. That was it, now. It touched 
an angle that was disturbing to us all. How long 
would mother be with us? 

I think this thought must have saddened father, 
for after a little while he answered very gently, "I agree 
with you, 'Lizbeth, why hoard our few dollars? Why 
not enjoy seeing our children use it — now." 

He placed a tremulous emphasis on the now and 
I knew what was uppermost in his mind. Then I knew 
the matter was settled. I was to go to llillton to High 
School. Far into the night — long after my parents 
were peacefully sleeping — I pondered my future, some- 
times with fear and trembling and again with tlie blind 
and confident assurance of ignorance and youth. 

Summer wore on to August, that sometimes stifling 
August in the midwest when the inland plains pulsate 
with choking heat through the entire month. Duilr.g 
these dreaded dog days all nature droops limp and 
lifeless. The nights bring no relief. The pools and 
water holes boil down to a thick, green-scummed mud. 
Cattle languish, and in the ceaseless fight with pestering 
insects grow lank and lean. The brazen sun each day 
burns a molten path across a desert sky. 



278 The Swamps 

Such was the August of which I speak, and this 
particular day was unusually hot. 

Mother overtaxed her strength. She insisted on 
doing the work herself though I helped her all I could. 
Clarkson and I peeled all the peaches ourselves. But 
mother would fill the cans, all the while working over 
the hot stove. ISTor would she allow us to seal them. 
She must pour the melted sealing wax just so into the 
little groove in which the tin cap fitted. 

"I don't want any of them to spoil," she expostulated. 
"These peaches will taste mighty good to you, Sheridan, 
when you come home from school after five days in the 
week of Hillton grub." 

Still thinking of me, of my "career" at high school. 
Her flushed face pained me. It grew purple in the 
choking heat and I became alarmed. 

"Just this one, and then we are through. Then I 
will lie down and cool off. You and Clarkson can 'rid 
up' the kitchen while I rest." 

She went into the cool north bedroom and removed 
her wrapper. Before supper time all was shipshape 
ii! the kitchen. 

We had a light supper prepared mainly by Clarkson 
aJ:d rue. We washed the dishes. After the molten sun 
had rolled its flaming mass below the western horizon, 
we moved our chairs out under the elm in front of the 
house. There was scarcely a breath of air. 

For an hour after I went to bed I tossed about in 
the stifling night. Then from sheer exhaustion I fell 
asleep. 



Tireless Time and Tide 279 

About one o'clock my father called me. 

"Go for the doctor," he commanded excitedly, "I 
think mother's dying." 

I jumped out of bed and fumbled for my overalls. 
"Dying ?" I gasped. I was stunned and couldn't think. 
[ finally got my overalls on, and hurried into my 
parents' room. My father had lighted the candle on 
the stand beside the bed. It sputtered forth a sickly 
light. The comers of the room lay in deep shadows. 
My father w^as half supporting my mother's form, 
apparently a limp and lifeless form. 

"Bring a glass of water," he urged. 

In the kitchen I filled the glass from the water pail. 
My father forced the rim of the glass between my 
mother's lips, but when he tipped the glass the water 
ran out of the corners of her mouth. 

"Hurry, Sheridan," he said in terror, "Old Fan — 
in the stable — hurry." 

I stumbled to the stable. I passed inside. On the 
harness peg at the end of the stall I found a bridle. 
It seemed an eternity before I could unbuckle the halter 
and slip on the bridle. 

I led old Fan out of the stable — to the barnyard 
gate. Once through the gate I leaped astride her bare 
back. Thus far since being suddenly aroused from 
sleep, I moved as in a dream. I didn't seem to be 
fully awake. Now I began to realize my mother's 
condition. She was dying. I grew sick at heart. 
Then I urged Fan into a gallop. I talked to her; I 
patted her on the neck. 



280 The Swamps 

'"Dear old Fan, liuiTv, hurry. It's mother; lielp 
us save her. Run, run as you have never run before." 

She seemed to sense the importance of speed. Her 
hoofs struck the deep, dew-laden dust of the road in a 
rapid succession of muffled thuds. We reached the 
cross roads. I urged her on — faster, faster. The dark- 
ness reeled by in solid walls of impenetrable gloom. 
The trees along the roadside formed an endless proces- 
sion of hooded ghosts. The dank, night air sweeping 
through my tousled hair felt like little streams ©f 
lukeAvarm water trickling over my scalp. I was hatless, 
coatless and barefooted. I dug my heels into old Fan's 
sides with grim determination. T wound my free hand 
into her mane to steady myself. Several times I almost 
lost my balance. 

We had reached the bridge that spans the creek near 
Rushville. With one resounding thump the mare passed 
over. Then the sharp bend just before the railroad. 
Fan bounded over the track. In a moment more I 
drew her up in front of Doctor Urayson's office. I 
dropped the reins over the hitching post and hurried to 
the doctor's door. 

"Doctor, Doctor Grayson," I shouted, as I pounded 
the door. Again I repeated the call. What if he were 
out! The thought made me feel faint. 

Then I heard a noise within. 

"Who is it ?" he demanded . 

"It's me, Sheridan, Sheridan Rudolph," I answered. 
"Come quick, Doctor; mother's dying." 



Tireless Time and Tide 281 

The movements inside quickened. Then I heard 
the doctor fumbling with tlie door. Presently — it 
seemed hours — the door opened, and with saddle bags 
slung across his arms, the Doctor strode forth past me 
into the night. 

"You say your mother's sick ?" he asked as he made 
his way towards the front gate. 

"Yes, awful bad; I'm afraid she is dying." 

With his characteristic jerky stride he crossed the 
road and entered the stable on the other side. 

"Can I help you?" I nervously asked, as I followed 
him. I had scarcely finished the question before he 
came out of the stable leading his sorrel, the horse he 
always rode when he was in a hurry. Old Fan was 
breathing heavily. Doctor B. D. noticed it. 

"You've been riding hard; your mare is spent, no 
need of killing her. I'll hurry; you've done your part ; 
better take it a little easy coming back." Then he 
disappeared into the darkness. 

I turned my attention to old Fan. Poor old Fan ! 
Her head nearly touched the ground as she wheezed in 
her effort to get her breath. I went up to her and 
patted her. Then I led her as far as the railroad. 
She seemed better now, and I again jumped astride 
lier back. 

First I let her walk a short distance. But I could 
not forget the picture of my mother's limp, unconscious 
form as my father propped her up with pillows. Fan 
was breathing easier now and I urged her into a slow 
trot. She kept this up to the crossroads. We were 



282 The Swamps 

nearly home, and we went a little faster the remainder 
of the way. 

I slipped the bridle from old Fan's head, and turned 
her loose in the barnyard. The pasture bars were down 
and she could cool herself oif in the damp, lush grass. 
I hurriedly made my way into the house. My mother 
was still alive. What a load from my heart ! What 
supreme joy! She was conscious. Doctor B. D. was 
"cupping" her, that old-time practice of lighting some 
inflammable substance inside of a tumbler or cup and 
then placing the container over the seat of pain. The 
cup was inverted over my mother's heart. 

I edged up to the side of the bed. My mother 
turned her tired eyes on me and smiled, smiled re- 
assuringly. How my heart bounded for joy ! She was 
still alive. 

The Doctor remained till daylight. At that time 
my mother had fallen asleep. In the sitting room 
Doctor Grayson prepared a dozen powders — one to be 
taken every two hours. How often have I watched 
this old country Doctor prepare his powders! This 
process never failed to fascinate me. First, he would 
call for some paper — newspaper, grocery wrapping 
paper, or a leaf torn from the family almanac. With 
a straight-edged spatula from his saddlebags he divided 
the paper into a dozen or more equal-sized oblongs. 
These he placed in rows across the top of the sitting- 
room table. With his metal spatula he dipped into the 
powder bottles, first into one and then into others until 
he got the required mixture. He held the powder- 



Tireless Time and Tide 283 

laden spatula in turn over each little paper. Then with 
the fore finger of the same hand that held the spatula 
he tapped off into each paper just the right amount of 
powder for a dose. Xext he folded the paper about 
each little dab of powder. This latter process always 
excited my profound admiration. His clumsy, blunt 
fingers now became as delicate as the works of a watch. 
With consummate dexterity he brought the edges of the 
paper together in a fold as neat as any machine could 
do it. Finally he tucked the end of the folded paper 
together, inserting one end into the other so that when 
the job was completed all the powders were exactly of 
the same size and shape. They never varied; they 
were as if they had been struck off the same die. 

This performance alone always lifted him, in my 
estimation, to unquestioned medical proficiency. 

After the doctor left I tip-toed into the bedroom. 
My mother was still sleeping. It was broad daylight. 
I went into the kitchen and started a fire in the kitchen 
stove. My father was still watching by my mother's 
bedside. I began preparing breakfast. I put on the 
frying pan and covered the bottom of it with slices of 
bacon. It gave forth a pleasant odor. Clarkson, who 
had slept undisturbed through the night, now awoke. 
The smell of frying bacon led him to the kitchen. He 
looked surprised at not seeing mother there. He was 
about to speak when I raised a warning hand. 

"Don't make a noise, Clarkson." 



284 The Swamps 

I explained that mother had been very sick, that 
1 had gone for the Doctor, that he had just left, and all 
the excitement of the night. 

Clarkson looked puzzled. 

"She is sleeping now; so be very quiet and don't 
waken her." 

He seemed only partly to grasp the situation. 

"Go out and bring up the cows," I urged. 

I broke half a dozen eggs into the bacon drippings. 
Then I made milk gravy. I placed three plates on the 
table, and three coffee cups. The coffee pot on the back 
of the stove was boiling merrily. I returned to my 
mother's room. She was still asleep. I motioned 
father to come to breakfast. Clarkson had returned 
from bringing up the cows and was already at his 
place at the table. 

Mother slept till ten o'clock. We had all the 
morning work done. She praised us all generously. 
^ext day she was up. When the Doctor came again 
he left her a bottle of medicine, a heart tonic, he said. 
I didn't like the idea of a heart tonic. It sounded 
serious to me. 

A week after my mother's heart attack Willis and 
Molly returned from their wedding trip. We told them 
about mother. They looked concerned, Molly especially. 
I told her the Doctor left her a heart tonic. 

"She's been working too hard," Molly said. "She 
must not work so hard in the future, she can't stand it. 
You'll lose her. And I know what that is. I lost my 



•Tireless Time and Tide 285 

mother wiieii 1 was but a girl, when I needed a mother 
most. We must take care of your mother, Sheridan." 

Molly was much at our house, and insisted on doing 
most of the housework. 

Mother continued to steadily improve. She even 
seemed better than she "was before this alarming attack. 

September came, and I started to High School. 



CHAPTER XXII 
High School and Home 

When I presented myself at the Hillton IBgh School 
I wondered if any of the "town boys" would recognize 
me — would associate me with the "country Jake" who, 
on Saturdays and circus days, sold watermelons from 
a wagon at the Courthouse corner. Those first few 
days at High School made a lasting impression on my 
mind. I was painfully self conscious, and was 
continually comparing my gaucherie and homespun 
with the confident ease and elegant apparel of the boys 
from Hillton. Perhaps I exaggerated this difference, 
perhaps I only imagined they looked down on me, 
because I came from the Swamps. They had their 
own friends and associates and it was perfectly natural 
that I should be left out of their reckoning. They 
were polite enough to me in the school room, but it w^as 
a politeness that chilled me to the marrow. I passed 
many dreary hours alone in my room. 

I hired a room from an old couple w^ho w^ere very 
kind to me. I also ate my breakfast with them. I 
had a sandwich and a glass of milk for lunch. These 
cost me a dime. I bought them at Tommy McGlynn's 
"Palace Restaurant." I usually ate supper alone in my 
room from a lunch bag which mother filled every 
Monday morning before I began the seven-mile walk to 
Hillton. I did not fare sumptuously that first year at 
Hillton, though I kept within my allotted budget of 



288 The Swamps 

three dollars a week — one dollar for room rent, and 
two dollars for food, books, pens, writing tablets and 
the like. But then I was at home from Friday night 
till Monday morning when I simulated the gastronomic 
habits of the anaconda and fortified myself against the 
five lean days in the middle of the week. 

As the weeks passed I became more accustomed to 
my new surroundings. In my classes I acquitted 
myself in a creditable manner. In this respect, at 
least, I was not inferior to the town boys. Professor 
Brown even singled me out on occasions as a "shining 
example." I came to dread these complimentary 
references almost as much as I feared those biting shafts 
of sarcasm that Professor Brown was in the habit of 
hurling upon the cowering head of some blundering 
boy. Professor Brown had no patience with stupidity. 
Whenever a boy made a palpably stupid or absurd 
answer to his questions the long, lank, dour professor 
would fairly boil over with disdain and scorn. We 
knew when these torrents of withering sarcasm were 
coming. There was an ominous hush in the class 
room. Professor Brown's face became curiously 
distorted as he removed his pince-nez glasses from his 
thin, classical nose and fixed his hawk-like gaze on the 
object of the gathering storm. The boy knew, too, what 
he was in for. It was no laughing matter to be "laid 
out" by "Old Brownie." Many would have preferred 
the sting of the lash to the cutting, shrivelling sarcasm 
from his razor-like tongue. I used to feel genuinely 
sorry for one particularly stupid boy in Professor 



High School and Home 289 

Brown's class. I think "Fatty" Buckley was rank 
poison to old Brownie, His very presence in the room 
seemed to irritate the sinister old High School principal. 
We could almost see the grease ooze from Buckley's 
fat, pudgy body when sweltering under the searing 
flame of old Brownie's tongue. Under these tongue 
lashings Fatty utterly collapsed where he sat. His 
waxy body seemed to spread out over the seat and hang 
in flabby folds that almost reached to the floor. It was 
a great relief from these painful scenes to all of us when 
Fatty's parents took him out of school and sent him 
to a private institution somewhere in the east. 

But Professor Brown with all his asperities was an 
al)le teacher. He was thorough and painstaking 
especially to any boy with the will to do his part. He 
seemed to realize that I was a little different from the 
boys who had come up through the Hillton grades, 
that I lacked some of the training that they had had. 
One day in class he said to me, "I see, Sheridan, that 
you have missed a little of the grade work required 
here. I haven't time now but if you will remain after 
school we'll go over this matter together." 

This was most pleasing to me; Old Brownie was 
actually staying after school to help me along. Nor 
was this the only time he went out of his way to set 
me right about something in which I was lacking. I 
learned to regard Professor Brown very highly. I also 
learned that under his stern exterior there lurked a 
heart — a heart that could go out in sympathy with as 



290 The Swamps 

much tenderness as in its bitter invective and withering 
sarcasm it could go out and stab. 

By the end of the school year I felt more at home 
in the Hillton High School. My uncomfortable 
relations had been adjusted, my standing had become 
reasonably secure. The boys in the main were kind — 
some of them cordial. One became my most intimate 
chum. I look back upon my association with Hugh 
MacNeil as one of my most cherished experiences. We 
grew inseparable. I went to Hugh's home after school. 
We studied together, often had supper together. "Stay, 
lad, stay to be sure," Hugh's Scotch father would urge. 
Hugh's mother was equally insistent. To even up 
meals Hugh would often walk home with me week-ends, 
and remain with us till Monday morning. What a 
glorious time we had ! Hugh was tall, lanky, not very 
robust. I could handle him in a tussle easily. He was 
no match for me in strength. But what a boy! what 
a brain ! what a lovable, laughing nature ! Always 
smiling, always ready to help, to encourage, to cheer up. 

Hugh was bright, especially bright in composition, 
in writing of any kind. How we used to write poetry 
together! Hugh was a budding Burns. / thought so 
at least. Before twenty he had published an 
"Anthology" of verse — "The Rustic Poet and other 
Poems." I still have a copy of the pamphlet. It was 
made at the local printing office, and displays on the 
front cover the legend, "Printed at the office of the 
Hillton Gazette." I remember how I envied Hugh. 
He was a real author. An author of a "volume" of 



High School and Home 291 

poems. At the time, I thought the poems were veritable 
masterpieces. I still think they were remarkable for 
one of his years. Had he lived I believe he would have 
made a name in literature. 

Vacation came again and I changed my "boughten'* 
school suit for overalls. Spring farm work was upon 
us. I soon formed blisters on my softened hands. 
Then the blisters broke. For a few days they were 
painfully tender. Afterwards callouses formed; my 
hands were properly "broken in" to farm work. All 
summer I worked on the farm — worked hard. 

Willis and Molly were now established in their new 
home on a small farm alongside our own. Willis 
purchased this farm of fifty acres from Ben Strong. 
Ben couldn't make a "go" of farming. Ben's wife and 
two daughters were extravagant, had urban ideas. The 
girls insisted on taking music lessons at Hillton, and 
Mrs. Strong owned a manicure set, and used it. Ben 
had to sell his farm at a great sacrifice. Brother Willis 
bought it cheap. It w^as a promising little fai*m. 
Molly and Willis seemed happy and interested in their 
work. 

My mother's health remained about the same; 
certainly no worse. But the attack she had in the 
night the summer before made a lasting impression on 
all of us. Molly persuaded her to obtain help. The 
widow Hudson from Rushville lived with us that 
summer and helped my mother with the work. 

Hugh MacXeil often came out to the farm during 
the summer, generally week-ends. He was a perfect 



292 The Swamps 

blank about the country. I took especial delight in 
making fun of him, of his ignorance of all things rustic. 
He took my thrusts with his usual good humor. He 
didn't know a growing potato from a hill of corn, a 
field mouse from a mole. But he loved nature. We 
sat under the locust tree till late at night, until my 
mother urged us to come to bed. Hugh was a budding 
Burns. In that respect I have not changed my opinion 
in the least. I believe his boyhood verses will sustain 
my position. The sight of a cricket would start a train 
of imagery; a dead pussy cat, a wild rose, a chipmunk, 
a load of hay, a flock of birds, all held for Hugh a 
poetic appeal. 

I often found myself during this summer at Willis' 
house. It was only a short walk across fields to the 
road on which Willis lived, the road that with ours 
formed the "crossroads." Molly, tall and angular but 
with a heart of gold, soon won me over to her. She 
was genuinely interested in my progress in school and 
never seemed to grow weary of talking of my "career." 
Just what that career was to be was not yet quite plain 
to her, but that I was destined to have one admitted 
of no doubt in Molly's mind. Of course, I was pleased 
and naturally thought Molly was a woman who 
possessed an unusually discriminating mind. I tried 
to live up to her expectations. I read a few books 
which she recommended. 

The summer passed. It was again September. The 
summer's sun had tanned me and the summer's work 
had hardened me. During the first week I felt a little 



High School and Home 293 

'^stuffy'- in the school room. "Old Brownie" seemed 
rested and a bit more gracious. 

It was October, in the afternoon, a glorious October 
afternoon. There was a knock at the schoolroom door. 
Professor Brown motioned to a boy seated near the 
door, motioned him to answer the call. "Some one 
to see Sheridan Rudolph," the boy said. The principal 
then nodded to me. I arose and went to the door. I 
closed the door after me. In the shadow of the hall I 
saw Jack Kling. For a moment he did not speak. He 
looked old and shrunken. I felt a peculiar clutch at 
my heart. With a visible effort Jack found his voice. 
"Sheridan," then gulping painfully, "Sheridan, your 
mother's dead." For a second the hall seemed to reel. 
A window at the farthest end let in a square of light. 
I fixed my eyes on the square of light. The hall became 
steadier. Then I found myself. I had complete 
control of myself. 

I opened the door and very calmly walked to the 
dais, on which Professor Brown sat behind his flat- 
topped desk. 

"My mother is dead," I said, "may I be excused?" 

Only for an instant did Professor Brown's lustcrless 
eyes take on a startled look, a look of painful surprise. 
Then infinite tenderness flooded them. He lifted one 
of those thin, bloodless hands of his and placed it on 
my shoulder. I think a tear trickled downi his wrinkled 
cheek. 

"Of course you may be excused, why do you ask?" 



294 The Swamps 

His face, his dour, deeply lined face, melted in a 
flood of sympathy. His hand that always looked so 
cold and clammy felt Avarm and reassuring as it rested 
upon my arm. 

Then with supreme sympathy, "I am so sorry, 
Sheridan, but be braA'e lad. We canH understand these 
things now. Just have faith. God bless you." He 
spoke in a low voice, but the boys had heard. There 
was a deep hush in the room as I turned and made my 
way to the door. 

Jack Kling stumbled down the stairs by my side. 
We passed through the door. Old Fan was tied to the 
iron fence. 

"I think she can carry us both," Jack said, "do you 
want to ride in front?" 

"1^0 Jack, I'll ride behind you." 

The ride home seemed like a dream. A vague 
oppressive gloom held me dry-eyed and inarticulate. 
In a labored monotone Jack related the circumstances 
that attended my mothers death. Even old Fan seemed 
subdued as she ambled along the deep-rutted road. The 
sumacs and maples stood silent in their robes of crimson 
and gold; crickets chirped plaintively from the dusty 
grass that bordered the road. 

"We were eating dinner," Jack began. "'Lizbeth 
went into the bedroom to rest. She laid down on the 
bed. We heard her cough, leastwise it sounded like 
coughing; only more hollow like. George heard her 
and got up from the table and went into the bedroom. 
Then George called Mrs. Hudson who was waiting on 



High School and Home 295 

the table. He called scared like. We all stopped 
catin', and listened. Mrs. Hudson gave a cry, more 
like a moan. I knowed something was serious. I 
slipped from my chair and went to the bedroom door. 
They two was holdin' 'Lizbeth up. She had an awful 
color and was limp. I asked George if he wanted me 
to go for the doctor. Greorge was as pale as 'Lizbeth. 
He did not answer, and I waited. Then I got some 
water. Mrs. Hudson bathed your mother's face. But 
I could see it was no use. They laid her back on the 
pillow. George looked terrible. His eyes were wild 
like. Kinder like they was the night he was out of his 
head, the time the wolf nearly killed him. ^Go for 
Molly and Willis,' he said. He never moved a muscle, 
just kinder talked as if he didn't know what he was 
saying. I ran across the field and found Molly feeding 
her chickens. I told her 'Lizbeth was dead and she 
went white, grabbed the fence to keep from fallin'. 
Willis was in the field back of the orchard. She 
pointed, and I ran to him. We three hurried back 
to your house. George was still settin' stupid-like on 
the edge of the bed. Molly told me to bridle old Fan 
and go for you." 

To Jack's monotonous recital I listened, but in a 
vague, detached way. I did not fully comprehend. 
My stunned brain functioned but dully. 

At the gate I got off old Fan and looked at the 
new house; at the front door. The new house stood 
between the road and the old house. We hadn't yet 
moved into the new house; the dream house that my 



296 The Swamps 

mother had slaved for, the house with two rooms upstairs 
and a dormer window, a veranda and a walnut banister ; 
the modern new house that now my mother would never 
occupy, would never realize the joy of living in. I 
think I felt bitter, bitter at Fate, bitter at the cruel 
joke Fate had played on my mother. With these 
feelings of rebellion in my heart I moved around the 
end of the new house and entered the door of the old 
house, the house in which my mother lay dead. 

Father lifted his eyes to mine and the hard, wild 
look slowly gave way to pity, to sympathy. He 
realized, perhaps for the first time, that others would 
suffer. He knew how I loved my mother. He knew 
how she shared my every confidence, how she had 
pleaded for me when his patience with me was 
exhausted. "Sheridan," he moaned aloud. His voice 
was husky, unnatural. I moved to his side. I looked 
down into my mother's placid face. I felt ashamed 
of my bitterness. She seemed to be gently reproving me. 
I sat down on the edge of the bed beside my father. 
I laid my hand on his arm. Then the flood gates of 
relief opened. He sobbed like a little child — my father, 
strong, stern, often arbitrary — crying like his heart 
would break. In my great sorrow for him I 
momentarily forgot my own grief. I tried to comfort 
him. Molly and Willis left us alone; we had our first 
great grief together. 

After awhile we talked, talked of mother, talked of 
past days with her. At length he looked through the 
open door to the new house, at the sight of this he was 



High School and Home 297 

shaken anew. What a travesty! The house in which 
they had planned to spend their old age, worked so 
hard for the money, denied themselves. Mother's 
money, some of it, money from the sale of chickens, 
butter and eggs, and other farm products produced by 
her own hand. Almost ready to occupy and mother 
lying dead. It epitomized all the bitterness, all the 
tragedy of life. But how calm and serene my mother 
looked ! All pain gone, all anxiety over. Sleeping ! 
a sleep that was dominated by some beautiful dream. 

Again she seemed to plead with us, to gently rebuke 
us, to rebuke us for our rebellion. "I am happy" she 
seemed to say. "All is well. Be patient. I'm waiting 
for you." 

"In a house not made by hands," my father 
murmured. "That's it, more beautiful than the one 
we have prepared." 

The thought seemed to comfort him. He seemed 
resigned. 

The afternoon shadows were growing longer. The 
cardinal fussed about the cedar tree. I heard Molly 
and Mrs. Hudson in the kitchen. Clarkson reached 
home from Rushville before I arrived. Poor Clarkson ! 
I don't think he quite realized it all. 

I heard the lowing of the cattle. They were at 
the gate. Willis watered them. The bars clicked as 
old Fan was turned out to i)asture. These familiar 
sounds fell on my ears with the intonation of tolling 
bells. Would life go on again — the same? There was 
a rumble in front of the house as of a muffled vehicle. 



298 The Swamps 

It ceased. Willis conducted the undertaker and his 
assistant into the room. My father spoke to him list- 
lessly. We both moved away. 

I saw the hearse standing under the elm. Black, 
everything black. Black draperies hung from within 
and cut in scallops the glass sides. Black horses! 
Black nets on the horses even to the tassels that tipped 
the horses' ears. The driver that held the horses was 
dressed in black — rusty black hat, black shabby clothes. 

I shrank from the depressing sight. My mother 
was not like that, my mother loved color, bright flowers, 
roses, tulips, scarlet geraniums, a bright ribbon, a 
flowered dress; she loved sunshine, not gloom. 

They were going to place her in that awful hearse, 
and then into — 

I refused to think, my brain ceased to function. 

I remember riding with Molly and Willis on that 
long drive to the cemetery, the family burying ground 
of the Rudolphs and Deidricks. We passed the cross- 
roads, over the bridge, around the bend just before 
reaching Rushville, and then across the railroad. I 
recalled that wild ride two years ago when I thought 
my mother was dying. IN^ow she icas dead, was slowly 
being drawn along that same road. 

Dr. B. D. Grayson's oflice! His old sorrel horse 
stuck his head out of the stable door as we passed. He 
seemed to look sorrowfully at the hearse. 

We crossed the turnpike at Fairville. Then into 
the hills, where my ancestors first settled. Finally we 
reached the little white church alongside of which stood 



High School and Home 299 

a cluster of marble slabs. At the farther end of the 
cemetery my eyes fell on a heap of fresh earth. I 
shuddered, I recalled that numbing sensation I felt 
when as a little tot I saw my father and Jack Kling 
bury old Joel Smart. Xow — I looked away from the 
terrible sight. My mother! It would soon be over. 
I would see her no more. 

* K' * ♦ * * * * 

Willis drove me to Hillton Monday morning. I 
had been absent nearly a week. I shrank from facing 
the school ; I had no heart to go on. 

The town boys were considerate. Some had been 
through the ordeal, a mother, father, sister or brother. 
They knew how I felt. They said kind words to me, 
awkwardly, blunderingly. Some said nothing — only 
took my hand. This was better; their looks conveyed 
more to me than words. One girl came up to me at 
recess. She told me how brave I was, then she fled 
precipitately. Professor Brown was particularly kind. 
He asked me the most obvious questions, questions that 
carried the answers in themselves. 

Monthly examinations were on. Of course, I would 
fail; not only had I missed important lessons but I 
couldn't think clearly. 

Yet I went through with them. Imagine my 
surprise when I glanced at my report ! I had made a 
hundred in every study. Deserved it? Never! not 
even fifty if graded on merit. It was the heart of 
gold under Old Brownie's forbidding exterior expressing 
itself. I thanked the old Professor the next day at 



300 The Swamps 

recess. I started to say I didn't deserve it. But he 
snapped out in his most vicious manner, "I graded the 
papers myself." 

There vras to be no thanks. That wasn't to 
Brownie's liking. He had graded the papers himself. 
That ended it. 

But I loved old Brownie more for giving me that 
lying report than for anything he ever did. He sensed, 
as no one else, my reaction of depression at returning 
to school. But it was difficult for me to keep up, to 
regain my energy and enthusiasm. I felt languid, 
dispirited, gloomy. My appetite was gone. I had a 
constant headache. I felt feverish at times. 

That first week passed in misery. I walked home as 
usual after school on Friday. I thought the walk would 
help me, but I found my usual buoyant strength had 
lessened. I thought I would never reach home. I had 
to rest several times by the wayside. My headache 
increased. When I got home it was raging. Home ! 
What a desolate home ! How tragically changed. My 
father looked like a ghost. He took no interest in life. 
But for Willis the ordinary duties of the farmstead 
would have been neglected. Willis came over every 
day and did the chores. Molly helped Mrs. Hudson 
take care of the house. Clarkson returned to Rushville 
to school. Poor Clarkson ! I don't think he ever quite 
realized what the death of our motJier meant to us. 

When I staggered into the house from Hillton, 
Molly was there. She noticed my distraught appear- 



High School and Home 301 

auce. With some anxiety she asked, "Whatever is the 
matter, Sheridan — vou look awfully sick?" 

"Got a bad headache; I feel bad all over." Molly 
placed her large hand on my check, her face clouded. 

"You're burning up," she exclaimed. "Go right 
to bed, I'll send Willis for the doctor." 

Crazed by the awful thumping in my head I finally 
got to bed. Old Doctor B. D. entered the room. I 
remember seeing him, but he looked strange and vague, 
his eyes were the eyes of a Jack-o-lantern, his whiskers, 
his nose, his whole face was askew and grotesque. 

"Typhoid," he sententiously announced. Then foi 
two weeks T raved in delirium. 



CHAPTER XXIII 
The Fever 

For more than two weeks I lived in a lurid realm 
of delirium. It was a region hectic in horror, suggest- 
ing nothing of this world or the world to come. It was 
a detached world that had for its setting the everyday 
objects and scenes with which I was familiar, but 
distorted beyond measure. The life I led in this 
impossible world w^as the life of those souls condemned 
to suffer an eternity through the regions of the Inferno. 
I remember this fortnight of Hades as distinctly today 
as I did on the days that immediately followed my 
escape. I remember in fairly accurate sequence the 
imaginary scenes and experiences through which I 
passed. I remember the grotesque illusions, the 
perverted psychology', the distorted system of reasoning 
that dominated my brain ; I remember my attitude 
towards the problems that presented themselves in 
fragmentary and twisted form in the chimerical world 
in which I now lived, and moved, and mentally suffered. 
I was not conscious of any physical pain ; my suffering 
was all of the mind — a mind grown top-heavy and 
fantastic, that epitomized and condensed in a world 
of refined torture all the hallucinations and vagaries 
of a disordered brain. 

Of course, all these mental processes were naturally 
lacking in logic, in any sustained and consistent process 
of reasoning; but a crude and elementary system — an 



304 The Swamps 

attempt to synchronize and harmonize my intangible 
and fugitive mental concepts — existed nevertheless, I 
knew, for example, the well contained water — cool, 
delicious water — and very cunningly I planned an 
attempt to get it; for at this time the old practitioner 
of medicine withheld water from his fever-racked 
patients. I remember entering that borderland of 
delirium, too, on the day I came home from High 
School at Hillton. I remember hearing the doctor 
pronounce my malady typhoid fever. At that very 
time I was already half way into the realm of raging 
fever, but still able to differentiate between the real 
and the fantastic. I Avas still able to recognize people 
and things but they were in a whimsical and bizarre 
setting. While in this borderland I was removed to 
one of the rooms in the new house — the southeast corner 
room. This was a wise arrangement, for two days after 
I took to my bed, Clarkson came down with the same 
malady. Clarkson remained in a room of the old 
house. He also was soon in a state of wild delirium. 
It was better that we were in different houses, better 
because of our hallucinations and the resultant reaction 
they would have had on each other, better because of 
our vociferous arguments and struggles with our 
attendants, who had to keep us in bed by sheer force 
much of tlie time. 

At this time I was a strong, husky boy, and in those 
first few days — those days when the fever had not yet 
weakened me — I was doubly strong because of the effect 
of the malady on my mind. I was headstrong as well, 



The Fever 305 

and insisted, in my delirium, in getting out of bed and 
pursuing whatever course my disordered brain suggested. 
To keep me in bed required the effort of three strong 
men. Luckily these were at hand, for the circumstances 
of the Rudolph boys' sickness following, as it did, upon 
the death of mother, appealed to the sympathy of all 
the countryside; and all the countryside came to offer 
help. Here, indeed, was opportunity for help — help to 
hold us in bed for days, sit up nights with us, help in a 
dozen different ways. To constantly force me to remain 
in bed was a most distressing struggle, wearing on me, 
wearing on the men who had to hover over me always 
ready to seize me and hold me when I made one of 
those sudden lunges to escape. I remember this part 
of my delirium; I remember it very clearly, remember 
the watchfulness of my captors ; not, however as human 
beings trying to render me a favor, but as grotesque 
goblins, as minions of Satan who presided over this 
fiery furnace in which I was doomed to forever suffer 
an endless death. I^o, not death; my disordered brain 
did not reason that far, but just a present hell that 
knew no future, that remembered no past. I could 
think in a way but only of the immediate present. This 
endless struggle with these demons I remember as of 
yesterday. This constant conflict proved a serious 
problem to both watcher and watched alike. 

There came a time when old Doctor B. D. feared 
this wearing struggle would result in disaster, disaster 
for me, for all the while the fever was consuming me; 
my organs were growing weaker, and in consequence 



306 The Swamps 

failed to function properly. My heart, especially, was 
severely taxed in these violent clashes, and the old 
family doctor anxiously pondered the situation. Many 
were the conversations I had with him in later life, 
and he did not attempt to conceal the fact that he was 
utterly at a loss as to how to manage me. 

Finally he decided to allow me to get out of bed if 
I wanted to, and wander around the room. He thought 
this would be less of a strain on me than the exhausting 
struggle when I was kept in bed by sheer force. Every- 
thing was taken out of the room that might hamper 
me, that I might fall over, or in my dementia, I might 
seize and use as a weapon upon my imaginary foes — 
those demons that guarded me night and day lest I 
escape from my chamber of horrors. 

At first this worked very well. I would wander 
about the bare room for awhile and finally, of my own 
accord, go back to the bed. Willis, Molly and the 
neighbors took turns at watching me. Several days 
and nights passed. I was allowed the freedom of the 
room with apparently no untoward results. I remember 
this new phase of my treatment very well. At first 
my disordered brain reacted dully, uncomprehendingly 
to the new regime. But though my reason was dis- 
jointed I still retained the power of cunning. I was 
forever planning my escape from this prison of agony. 

The night I attempted to put my plan into execution 
Jake Burson, Albert's father, was looking after me. 
Of course Jake, as were the others who took care of me, 
was charged by Doctor B. D. to keep a sharp lookout 



The Fever 307 

for me — to be ready to checkmate me in any gesture 
that might result in bodily harm to me. The door 
was kept locked, I seemed to realize this, and I knew 
that escape through this channel would l>e out of the 
question. Then I thought of the window — the south 
window — the window nearest the pump. The pump ! 
That was at the bottom of all my plans to escape. 
Above all else I longed to reach the pump. In my 
delirium I sometimes persuaded myself that I had 
reached the pump, when for hours I pictured myself 
drinking gallons of cool, delicious water pumped up 
from the depths of the well. 1 did not drink it from 
the tin cup or gourd usually found hanging from a 
nail in the pump — that would be too slow — but I 
fancied my face upturned beneath the spout, one hand 
supporting my body, while with the free hand I 
pumped a full stream of water directly into my parched 
and burning mouth. Just how I could distort and 
twist my body so that this could be accomplished did 
not concern me; but in my delirium this position seemed 
brought about easily enough, and I found myself thus 
engaged, with the surplus water from the generous 
wooden spout flowing deliciously over the sides of my 
burning face. 

This was the lure that haunted me, that obsessed 
me, the mad determination to reach the old wooden 
pump, that pump that Charley Woodhull's father had 
bored from an oak log, and fitted with a strong handle 
and a wooden spout, through which flowed the grateful 
stream of cool, sparkling water. 



308 The Swamps 

My fever must have been intense on this particular 
night, the night Jake Burson watched me, for I was 
determined by foul means or fair to reach that coveted 
pump and drink, and drink, and drink. The thought 
of that forbidden water maddened me, made me 
desperate. The injustice of it all, too, embittered me. 
What had I done that I should be so tortured ? I would 
thwart these demon guards. I'd go to any lengths to 
cheat them of their devilish designs on me. 

Jake must have momentarily dozed, though in 
speaking of the incident afterward he would never 
admit it. 

"iN^o, sir," he would protest, "I was wide awake, I 
was watching every movement Sheridan made. But he 
was quicker than greased lightning; before I could say 
Jack Robinson he was half way through the window. 
I thought it was all over. He was an awful sight. I'll 
never forget that night if I live to be a hundred." 

Jake did get a terrible shock. Willis said when the 
crash of broken glass brought him from Clarkson's 
room in the old house to my room in the new, Jake was 
as white as a ghost and was moaning like one bereft of 
reason. He was pawing weakly over me and trying to 
drag me back through the shattered window. With 
Willis' assistance they finally got me back into the 
room — I was only partly through the v/indow — and 
lifted me to the bed. I was fearfully cut by the double- 
thick glass, and Was bleeding profusely. By this time 
Molly and my father were on the scene. Jake Burson 
was dispatched post haste for Doctor Grayson, while 



The Fevek 309 

"Willis, Molly and my father picked broken glass from 
my wounds, and tried to stanch the flow of blood. And 
now a strange thing happened — with the loss of blood 
my fever dropped and my delirium left me and for an 
hour or more I was in my right mind. I had escaped 
from my torture chamber, and the demons had vanished, 
and I was surrounded by those I loved. I remember 
how sorry I felt. I almost wept at the thought of the 
anxiety I had caused. I apologized, and begged them 
to forgive me. To hear me speak sanely again pleased 
but terrified them. It was suggestive of the current 
impression that consciousness often immediately 
l)recedes death. They assured me that they understood, 
and tried to comfort me. But they were so concerned 
over the injury I had inflicted on myself, together w^tli 
the impression the return of my reason produced, 
that I could see they were well nigh beside themselves. 

They partially stanched the flow of blood from the 
cuts on my right arm and in the back of my head whore 
the glass went deepest, and then the doctor arrived. 
Stitch after stitch he took in my arm and my scalp. 
For over an hour he was stitching up and dressing my 
wounds. "How did it happen ?" he asked as he worked, 
lie looked at Jake Burson. Jake never quite forgave 
himself for allowing me to inflict this injury to myself. 
It seems I loitered for awhile in front of the window, 
a window of which my mother had been very proud, 
for instead of consisting of a number of small panes 
each sash was fitted with but a single glass of double 
thickness and of an excellent quality. I seemed to 



310 The Swamps 

realize in my insane manner of reasoning that to plunge 
through this obstruction face forward would result in 
physical disaster. So I deliberately turned my back 
to the heavy plate glass and then with all my strength 
I threw my full weight against the window. The glass 
gave way with a startling crash. I was cut fearfully, 
especially on the back of my head and in the muscles 
of my right arm. These scars I will carry to my grave. 
Jake Burson was now suffering acutely. I remember 
I felt sorry for him. 

"I can't understand it, Doc," Jake began, "I had 
my eye on Sheridan every minute. I^o, I was wide 
awake, as wide awake as I am now." Great beads of 
perspiration rolled down Jake's weather-beaten face. 
Then he continued, "Sheridan was just aimlessly moving 
about the room. Then he came to the south window. 
He turned his back to it, and with his eye on me, quick 
as a flash, he threw his whole weight backwards against 
the pane. As the glass broke into a thousand pieces, 
Sheridan fell hanging half way through the window. 
Blood spurted from the back of his head and right arm 
and I rushed to where he lay moaning." 

Jake was in an agony of despair, the doctor saw 
how he suffered and replied, "Well, maybe this won't 
make him any worse." 

Doctor B. D. was talking in my presence under the 
impression that I was still in delirium and couldn't 
understand. 

"But I'm sorry it happened. It will weaken him," 
he continued. 



The Fever 311 

*'Jake wasn't to blaDie," I joined in weakly. 

The doctor looked at nie in surprise. Xo one had 
told him I was, for the time being, in my right mind. 

"Xo, Jake couldn't help it. I was too quick for 
him." 

"Why, Sheridan," Doctor B. D. said to me in 
amazement. "Do you know what you did?" 

"Yes, doctor, I know now, but I didn't at the time; 
I guess I must have been out of my head." 

"Yes, Sheridan, I guess you were; but maybe now 
you will be better." The doctor looked at Jake : "After 
all, Jake, this may be a blessing in disguise. Blood 
letting is an old remedy — who knows if it may not have 
had its value?" 

Jake seemed relieved. If only his failure to 
restrain me could result in good, his suffering would be 
less poignant. 

I was placed in bed, the doctor left and in another 
hour I was again in the throes of delirium. Only for 
a few hours had my sentence in the chamber of horrors 
been commuted. Again I was being tortured with 
branding irons and burning fumes. Again I was 
dreaming of that cooling well for which I had but 
recently made my spectacular break. In recalling this 
period of delirium it has always been a peculiar 
experience to me to remember for only a few hours 
everything as it really was. I can see myself in this 
Hades being suddenly lifted out for a time and placed 
with my relatives and friends, into the world as I knew 
it in normally sane moments, and then being lowered 



312 The Swamps 

again into the world of goblins, and demons, and fiery 
furnaces, of desiccating fumes — a veritable hell. 

But as the fever wore on from day to day I grew 
weaker. I still suffered the tortures of my hectic 
tormentors, but I was now unable to rise from my bed. 
I think my mental suffering became more acute as my 
bodily strength waned. I^ever once did I suffer well- 
defined physical pain — always the refined torture of the 
mind, the abuse and injustice heaped upon me by 
refusing me water — a Tantalus forever denied the 
cooling draught, to be leered at and laughed at by these 
ever-present demons. 

There came a time when all hope of my recovery 
Avas gone. During the course of the fever — Clarkson's 
course was similar to mine, even more desperate if 
that were possible — it seemed that Doctor Grayson had 
called in consultation a certain Doctor Russell from 
Hillton. In after life I became associated with Doctor 
Russell in the practice of medicine. Doctor Russell 
died from tuberculosis during this association, and one 
day while going through his desk, I found this note 
from Doctor B. D. It read: "No use coming down 
tomorrow ; I have just left the Rudolph boys. They are 
both dying, can't live through the night." 

I pondered this note long and earnestly. "They are 
both dying!" Doctor B. D. told Molly when he left on 
that fateful night that neither of us would live till 
morning. But Molly would not give up hope. Dear 
Molly! For awhile she despaired. Then she called 
Willis. Willis knew the Doctor's verdict. 



The Fevek 313 

''They shall not die," Molly cried in desperation. 
"Sheridan — Clarkson — we won't let them die." 

Then her square jaw set. She ordered Willis to 
take charge of Clarkson. 

"Don't let him die," she wailed, "don't let him." 

Willis disappeared into the old house. Molly 
remained with me. Time and time again in after years 
she described to me that all-night fight with death. 
At times I seemed dead. Then she rubbed me, chafed 
me, forced a drop of medicine between my lips, cried 
over me. Worked, worked, suffered and worked 
through that fearful night. As the endless hours wore 
on she heard as in a dream the familiar sounds of 
approaching day — the crowing of cocks, the bleating 
of sheep, the chirping of the early-rising birds. It was 
a dull November morning. Molly pale, distraught, wild 
eyed and haggard still bathed me, massaged me. 

In the bank of heavy clouds in the east a cleft 
appeared, through which a shaft of sunlight shot and 
fell directly upon my face. Molly never missed 
stressing this trifle when relating the agony of the night 
in after years. "Yes," she would say, "the stream of 
light fell fairly on your corpse-like face." A strange, 
faraway look would come in Molly's eyes as she related 
this occurrence. Here she would generally stop for a 
moment in her narrative while her thoughts were 
apparently in another realm. I often noticed this. I 
think in some manner Molly always interpreted this 
ray of sunshine as an answer to her prayers. From 
that moment, Molly avers, the fever left me, and from 



314 The Swamps 

that moment the demons began their retreat. Slowly 
I regained my reason. 

When Doctor Grayson neared our house that 
morning on his way to see Mrs. Simpson he stopped 
more to comfort than to cure. He fully expected to 
find both of us boys dead. Imagine his surprise when 
he found both of us alive — not only alive but with the 
fever abated. 

"I could never understand it," he used to tell me in 
later years, "^ever. When I left the night before 
your pulse had gone; you were in utter collapse; 
nothing would arouse you. It was even worse with 
Clarkson. I didn't think either of you would live an 
hour." Then he would invariably add, "It must have 
been Willis and Molly. I never saw such wrecks as 
they both were the next morning. Especially Molly, 
I'll never forget how she looked. ^He's alive. Doctor, 
Sheridan's alive. He's going to live. I tell you. 
Doctor, he's going to live,' she almost screamed, and 
then she collapsed in a heap on the floor. I had a 
time bringing her to again." 

If I was tortured by devils and demons in the 
burning pit during the fever, I now faced a new agony 
scarcely less distressing than that through which I had 
just passed. For awhile I was too weak to move, to 
think, to even take stock of my surroundings. Slowly 
familiar faces, familiar objects, familiar sounds 
registered themselves on my fever-dulled brain. The 
past two weeks formed a separate period of my life, 
became a definite agony from which I had luckily 



The Fever 315 

escaped. It was a well defined world in which I had 
lived and suffered, but a world I couldn't definitely 
locate. I existed there, but it was vague as to location, 
and time. That world exists today, will always exist 
for me. 

Xow came agonizing cries from my starved body, 
from my burned body, from a body that had struggled 
through the fire of fever and was now crying for food. 
What suffering can be more acutely agonizing than 
hunger? I never knew before what hunger was, that 
it could so torture, so dominate one's whole moral and 
physical being. Under the gnawings of hunger the 
whole fabric of rectitude is undermined; one would 
willingly sell his soul to satisfy the cravings of hunger 
— would lie, steal, even be dangerously tempted to 
commit murder. Ever since my terrible suffering from 
the pangs of hunger 1 could never condemn a fellow- 
creature who was led to crime through hunger. Steal? 
I would have stolen the widow's mite to satisfy the 
cravings of my abnormal appetite. Lie? Cheerfully 
and willingly, though the minatory commandment were 
emblazoned in words of fire before my very eyes. I 
would have betrayed my dearest friend during those 
days of hunger torture for a mouthful of food. In my 
state of mental and physical weakness I lost poise in 
my mania for food. I berated those who withheld 
food from me ; I accused them of wilfully torturing me, 
and called them fiends — the fiends that had tortured 
me in my recent delirium. I knew now it was all a 
diabolical plan to finish me properly. By some means 



33 6 The Swamps 

I had managed to escape from the Inferno in which 
they had plunged me, but I was still in their cruel 
clutches. They were still bent on my destruction. 

Of course they tried to reason with me, tried to 
convince me that they were following the Doctor's 
instruction, that food, except in liquid form and in 
minute quantities, would prove fatal to me, that it was 
for my own good ; because they wanted me to get well, 
because they loved me. This last reason always called 
forth my most withering sarcasm. "Love me!" I 
would retort with as much vehemence as my weakened 
condition would permit. "Yes, it looks like you love 
me ! I suppose that's the reason you are starving me — 
because you love me so much ! That's why you let me 
lie here and suffer all the tortures of the damned. 
Love me! That's why you let good bread and good 
meat rot in the cupboard instead of giving me a bite or 
two of it when you know I'm dying of hunger. If 
that's because you love me — then hate me and give me 
something to eat before I die." 

This tirade would usually end in a fit of weeping. 
Then my mood would change and I would try pleading. 
"Please, please give me just a crumb of bread, just a 
shred of meat," I would implore. "If you only knew 
how I am suffering. You are so heartless. Why I 
wouldn't treat a dog like that, wouldn't let the meanest 
of God's creatures die from starvation when I had food 
going to waste all about me." I even berated Molly, 
Molly who I always believed saved my life, berated her 
roundly for her heartlessness. 



The Fever 317 

"Sheridan, please be reasonable," she would urge, 
"don't you know we are doing this for your own good ^ 
Didn't Ave all do everything we could to save your life V 

"Then why didn't you let me die ; w^hy did you keep 
me alive just to make me suffer like this? It would 
have been all over now; it would have been kinder to 
have let me die. I never suffered when I had the fever 
— just had wild dreams. It wasn't torture like this; 
and but for your cruelty you could give me something 
to eat, too, if you wanted to." 

I met Molly's argument that to give me solid food 
now would result fatally with, "Then let me die; I 
would a thousand times rather be dead than alive and 
suffering like this." 

In those unreasoning days I was extremely difficult. 
I Tvould not listen to reason; I could not be trusted; 
I had to be watched almost as closely as I had to be 
watched during my delirium. I openly boasted that at 
the very first opportunity I would go to the kitchen and 
eat my fill of food. And I would, too; the folks knew 
I would; so did the Doctor, and he gave strict orders 
to watch me diligently. He had known of cases where 
this uncontrollable post-fever appetite had been sur- 
reptitiously indulged with fatal results. They watched 
me as they would watch a criminal. I reminded them 
of this attitude. "You never leave me for a minute," 
I protested, "why is some one of you always hanging 
about my bed ? I'm not so sick as to need your presence 
all the time; why don't you go away some time, and 
leave me alone? I'm tired of forever seeing your old 



318 The Swamps 

mugs around me; I haven't looked at anything else all 
winter, the same mugs, only uglier, that leered at me 
when I was in the burning pit. Why don't you go 
about your business and leave me alone?" 

Leave me alone, forsooth! Molly and Willis and 
the others were not to be fooled by this kind of talk. 
They knew, as I knew, if opportunity presented I would 
be at the kitchen cupboard, if in my weakened condition 
I could possibly manage to drag myself that far. And 
so they watched me, watched me night and day. 

How slow my convalescence seemed! Hbw the 
hours and days and weeks dragged by! At first my 
lips were moistened with a damp cloth; then I was 
allowed a few drops of water, after which came the 
merest amount of liquid food, a few drops from a spoon. 
My burnt-out body reacted sluggishly to food, un- 
reliably, treacherously. Organic functioning had 
practically ceased. Many artificial processes had to 
be resorted to in order to stir these half-dead organs 
to perform properly again their normal work. In a 
few weeks after the fever left me I began to shed my 
skin like a snake. During the process of this exfolia- 
tion I used to amuse myself by the hour peeling the 
dead skin from my hands and feet and face; peeling 
long strips of desiccated epidermis from my arms and 
legs. I remember how the pink skin under this dead 
epidermis looked, and how tender it was. I also 
remember my first bit of solid food. It consisted of 
about a quarter of a raw oyster. N'ow up to the time 
of my fever I loathed oysters, especially raw oysters. 



The Fever 319 

I could abide oyster soup but even when cooked I did 
not relish oysters, and always left them in the bottom 
of my soup plate. But raw oysters were an 
abomination. I detested them. 

But in my insane craving for solid food I would 
have eaten anything, and when a fourth part of a raw 
oyster — made all the more repulsive because of having 
been divided — was offered me I seized upon it with 
unseemly avidity. I didn't consider that it was a 
segment of the lately repulsive oyster; it was solid food 
and my appetite was ravenous. That was sufficient to 
transmute this fragment of raw oyster into ambrosia. 
And ambrosia it seemed; at any rate it was not mortal 
food. It w^as food fit for the gods. 

I usually enjoy eating. My appetite is normal ; my 
digestion good. But nothing before or since that first 
mutilated bit of bivalve touched my tongue has ever 
produced the gastronomic bliss as did that poor piece of 
oyster. It was gastronomic rapture raised to heights 
hitherto unknown. 

From a quarter of an oyster the amount was 
gradually increased to one whole bivalve beautiful and 
succulent as it was handed me on a small plate. How 
I gloated over that oyster as it lay in a spoonful of its 
liquor in the centre of that plate ! N'o vandal knife 
had marred its perfect form, no ragged edge broke the 
curving outline of its tempting lineament, no milk 
clouded the clear steely blue of its exuding juice. 

I have a dog that slavers immoderately when he 
watches me prepare his meal. I can understand how 



320 The Swamps 

the sight and smell of food stimulates his salivary 
glands to the flood point. This oyster acted in a 
similar manner on my salivary glands. And yet I 
would fain put off the actual devouring process; it 
meant a long wait with agonizing anticipation till the 
next oyster was due. Then when the meagre meal began 
I would prolong the process as far as possible. Each 
fractional part of that oyster I would "roll as a sweet 
morsel under my tongue." 

How sorry I felt when the last shred had gone! 
How I literally licked the plate for that last molecule 
of the juice! 

Weeks dragged on. I was eating normally. My 
agonizing appetite had at last gone ; I was free to eat as 
I pleased, as much as I pleased. I was up and about 
but still weak. Clarkson and I met for the first time 
after our fever in January. Poor Clarkson, what a 
shadow he was of his former self! Clarkson failed to 
make as good a recovery as I did. For several years 
after the fever he was far from well. Yet he returned 
to school the following autumn and finished the 
course. Following this he graduated in pharmacy. 
Pharmacy ! the ideal life of which he had dreamed and 
had played away his childhood years. 

I never went back to the Hillton High School. The 
summer following the fever I remained with father on 
the farm — father whose health had been irreparably 
broken by the double strain of sickness and death. I 
felt sorry for him. He seemed to need me, to cling to 
me. Between Molly and Mrs. Hudson, Avho came to 



The Fever 321 

work for us, we managed to keep our home. But what 
a changed home ! How it was haunted with ghosts, 
ghosts of the happy childhood past ! My mother gone, 
Clarkson almost an invalid, Willis concerned with his 
own interests. Many a lonely day I spent that summer 
wandering among the scenes of my childhood. My 
childhood ! It was gone beyond recall. I was in the 
last year of my teens. I was sober, subdued. Young 
manhood was upon me, manhood with its responsibilities 
and its obligations. I was at the crossroads of life; 
which turn should I take ? The demand for a decision 
bore down heavily upon me. Much of the summer was 
spent in meditation. 

Another tragic event came into my life. Hugh 
MaclS'eil, my High School chum died late that summer, 
died of the malady from which I had barely escaped. 
This saddened me to the point of brooding melancholy. 
Truly, I was sorely bereft — of mother, of my "career" 
in High School and of my best chum. The world 
seemed dark and foreboding. Even the birds' songs 
seemed tinged with melancholy, seemed pitched to a 
universal minor strain. 

But through all that restless summer my mother's 
voice still came to me. "Play the game, Sheridan," she 
seemed to say; "don't disappoint me; make yourself 
worthy of your name ; a Rudolph never gives up." 

That autumn I went to college. 

THE END 




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